If you follow the fate of two of the biggest Field Days events, AgQuip held at Gunnedah NSW, and CRT FarmFest at Kingsthorpe QLD it sums up what field days have had to endure in 2020.
The organisers fought tooth and nail to save their events.
It was anticipated that rescheduling the events until later in the year was the most likely saviour.
Perhaps by then the restrictions in place around running outdoor events due to the continuing presence of the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic would be eased.
But the cards were already stacked against them as no field day event had been held since early March 2020.
But not wanting to lose record bookings from the best season in farming for over three years, Ag Quip and CRT FarmFest organisers took their fight to run their 2020 Field Days to the grisly end.
In early May organisers announced they would reschedule the AgQuip event from its regular August slot to mid-November for the first time.
With the majority of exhibitors aware that farmers were seeking out and buying supplies and equipment at record levels were keen to stand by rescheduled the event.
Organisers stated at the time, “There is no way a virus will be allowed to beat Australia’s biggest field day – AgQuip at Gunnedah NSW.”
That was a lot at stake with more than 100,000 farming professionals turning up each year to view over 3000 products and services at this world class event.
ACM Rural Events Group Manager Kate Nugent commented at the time, “The coronavirus has struck on what is turning out to be one of the best, most fruitful periods for Australian agriculture in years.
“With the drought easing its grip on vast areas of New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria, the economic outlook was better than it had been for the past few years,” Kate said.
Farmers who hadn’t produced a crop for many seasons were anticipating excellent harvests.
With pastures and flocks thriving too, people on the land were being offered the opportunity of replacing and updating equipment, in a way they hadn’t dared to consider for some time.
The regular time slot of August was re-scheduled to be staged over three days – Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, November 10, 11 and 12 2020.
Everything was in place to run a successful, AgQuip Field days that first started on the Gunnedah Racecourse in 1973.
And while organisers were very confident the event would take place, it would have been the only major Field Day event since March 2020 that had not been cancelled due to government COVID-19 restrictions.
ACM Rural Events Group, the organisers of AgQuip also stage the highly successful CRT FarmFest Field Days at Kingsthorpe, west of Toowoomba Qld.
Normally held in June each year, the FarmFest event was re-scheduled to 13 to 15 October, with the hope the government COVID-19 ruling regarding events of 500 plus patrons would be lifted prior to the event.
FarmFest is among one of the largest outdoor agricultural industry events and gathers over 60,000 farming families and consumers attending each year.
Both AgQuip and the CRT FarmFest Field Days were officially cancelled by event organisers on 14 July 2020.
Now, with the confirmed cancellation of such major events as Henty MFD, AgQuip, and CRT FarmFest it appears the option to postpone event time slots to later in the year has been exhausted for 2020.
With the uncertainty but continued attempts to save events for 2020 it has become a costly exercise for field days committees with heavy expenses biting at the purse strings.
Many medium and small field day events have turned to the government to expand the $36 million support program announced for agricultural show societies.
Currently Field days are not eligible under this program that offers agricultural show societies the chance to recover from the effects of COVID-19, ensuring they can continue after the pandemic has passed.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said the COVID-19 pandemic has hurt agricultural shows, with most expected to be cancelled for 2020 in the interest of public health and social distancing measures.
“These shows are estimated to contribute $1 billion to the economy each year and attract 6 million patrons annually, supported by 50,000 volunteers.
“They create social bonds and improve mental health in parts of regional Australia where distance, drought, bushfires and now COVID-19 have caused significant hardship and distress.”
Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management David Littleproud said the Supporting Agricultural Shows program will provide a one-off reimbursement to agricultural show societies to deal with cash flow pressures caused by COVID-19 related cancellation of agricultural shows.
“This funding supports not only the big Royal Shows in each capital but right down to the small country show, because we acknowledge the role shows play in connecting agriculture and regional Australia to metropolitan Australians,” Minister Littleproud said.
“There is a real risk that if we don’t help that not only could Royal Shows cease to function the way they are now but also those small shows all of which are run by volunteers could fold.
The $36 million Supporting Agricultural Shows program comprises three components:
$10 million in operational support for local show societies.
Shows will be able to claim up to $10,000 if their attendance last year was less than 2,000, up to $15,000 if their attendance was between 2,000 and 4,999 and up to $70,000 if their attendance was over 5,000
$26 million in operational support for Royal Agricultural Show societies which can additionally to claim for unrecoverable costs associated with preparing for the cancelled show.
$100,000 in operational support for Agricultural Shows Australia’s Rural ambassador program.
All agricultural shows that have cancelled their show in 2020 because of COVID-19 will be eligible and they will not have to compete for assistance.
Eligible reimbursement costs are expected to include: Bank fees, utilities, rates, insurance, fire alarms and equipment, cleaning supplies, telecommunications, IT system licencing costs, website costs, state/national show body affiliation fees and rent.
For more information on the agricultural show societies Fund, go to https://www.regional.gov.au/regional/programs/covid-19-relief-and-recovery-fund.aspx
An urgent support program estimated at around $50 million needs to be made available for Field days and their local communities that have suffered under the same stresses.