Show must go on: $25m for ag field days to bounce back post-COVID

Show must go on: $25m for ag field days to bounce back post-COVID

Politics
SHOW STOPPER: Ag shows and fields days, like AgQuip (pictured) make a significant contribution to local economies. Photo: Peter Hardin

SHOW STOPPER: Ag shows and fields days, like AgQuip (pictured) make a significant contribution to local economies. Photo: Peter Hardin

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The pandemic has been a tough time for ag field day organisers, with hundreds of shows worth billions of dollars cancelled.

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THE federal government will provide $25 million to help agricultural shows and field days bounce back after the pandemic, which has forced hundreds of events worth billions of dollars to be cancelled

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the iconic events contributed more than $1 billion to the national economy, however COVID-19 had forced more than 700 shows and fields to be cancelled.

"As a result, our show societies and field day organisers have incurred significant financial losses for two consecutive years," Mr Littleproud said.

"Without these events they've got no way to cover their costs.

"Our travelling showmen and women - often small, independent, sole-traders or family-based operations - are particularly hard hit. The flow-on effects to local communities will be felt for years."

ACM Rural Events group manager Kate Nugent didn't mince her words when she said it had been a difficult period for ag field day organisers.

"We've had to cancel field days and big events, such as AgQuip, for two years in a row and endure those financial losses," Ms Nugent said.

"This funding will help, but it won't recover our expenses, as we were much closer to staging events this year before we have to make the COVID call.

"We had to choose safety over profitability. At the end of the day, we have a responsibility to the regional communities we serve."

Although the agriculture sector had powered ahead throughout the pandemic, there were too many things outside the control of field day organisers to capitalise on the buoyanseason.

"Border closures are a good example," Ms Nugent said.

But with the country reopening soon, there is light at the end of the tunnel, and the ACM Rural Events team hasn't been resting on their laurels, with a new event planned for March.

"Out of adversity comes creative minds," Ms Nugent said.

"As part of our recovery, we've created a new event off the back of AgQuip, called AgSmart. It'll focus on the incredible opportunities in the agritech field.

"Technology is changing the practises and face of the industry so rapidly and AgSmart will shine a spotlight on it all."

Agricultural Societies Council of NSW president Tim Capp said as many as 128 country shows had been cancelled due to COVID, many for the second consecutive year.

Mr Capp this would help pay some bills, running costs and maybe leave them in a position where they would be able to run their local show next year.

"We're just ecstatic that the ASA's (Agricultural Shows Australia) done a great job in negotiating with Minister Littleproud," he said.

The second round of the Supporting Agricultural Shows and Field Days Program will provide $21 million for the operational costs of shows and field days cancelled in 2021 due to COVID-19.

The Supporting Showmen and Women Program has also been extended to provide an additional $4 million towards reimbursing showground rent.

"We are continuing to back these iconic events," Mr Littleproud said.

"They deliver significant social benefits to rural and regional Australia, bringing heart, soul and a sense of pride to towns across the country. I am proud to support these events and will continue to encourage the states and territories to do likewise."

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