Field day committees expecting at least a $50 million relief package to share amongst cancelled events will have to find support elsewhere.
The government has lumped them in with a $39 million package called the Supporting Agricultural Shows and Field Days program.
In May 2020, the peak body representing royal and country shows across Australia, Agricultural Shows Australia (ASA), called on the Federal Government to invest $42.675 million in a support package to ensure the survival of their events beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
But their submission did not include Field days, who operate independently.
A combined plea for over $90 million in relief for country shows and Field day events has instead been reduced to $39 million.
It’s not what Field day committees were expecting, or campaigning for.
Under enormous pressure due to cancelled events in 2020, many Field days have been treading water, waiting on government assistance to stay afloat.
Because Field day events were not part of the original relief claim for local country shows, many expected a special package for these much more expensive to run events.
The ASA estimated the shows under their umbrella contribute approximately $1 billion to the national economy – a figure that all but dried up overnight with the cancellation of four royal shows and hundreds of country shows because of COVID-19.
There are 580 local, regional or state shows held in Australia each year, all by not-for-profit organisations with a charter to support the development and promotion of primary industries across the country.
ASA’s proposed recovery package comprised three components; up to $30 million for capital city royal shows, up to $12.175m for state affiliated agricultural societies and $500,000 in operational support for ASA over two years.
ASA Chair Dr Rob Wilson said agricultural shows have been an integral part of rural communities for over a century, with some agricultural societies approaching their 200th year.
The ASA did welcome the $20 million in grants for 122 regional agricultural show societies announced on 8 May, 2020 as part of the Regional Agricultural Show Development Grants program.
These funds were used to renew and reinvigorate ageing show grounds through the Regional Agricultural Show Development Grants program.
The ASA also called for support to cover ongoing fixed costs, such as utilities and insurance, for all its members.
“Agricultural shows have never relied on government support and have never been a drain on community resources, but have been a net contributor to local community prosperity and goodwill,” he said.
“With shows cancelled due to the pandemic, there is no revenue for show societies and no possibility of revenue for the foreseeable future.
Dr Wilson said cancellation of the capital city Royal Shows will have significant repercussions for all regional and country shows due to the huge network of suppliers, stallholders and entertainers that rely on these shows for their livelihoods.
“Operational support for ASA will enable us to continue to represent and support agricultural shows and their youth competitions until financial stability returns to their membership base,” he said.
With the country shows and field day events competing for a much smaller relief pool than expected, committees will have to move quickly.
Applications are now open for the Australian Government’s $39 million Supporting Agricultural Shows and Field Days program.
And Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said agricultural show societies and field day organisers only have until 9 October, 2020 to apply for a one-off payment under the first funding round.
“This is a pandemic-busting cash injection for all those shows and field day events forced to cancel this year because of COVID-19,” Minister Littleproud said.
“We know that both agricultural shows and field days are significant social and economic contributors to hundreds of Australian bush and regional communities.
“They contribute more than $1 billion to the national economy each year, attract more than six million patrons and are supported by more than 50,000 volunteers.
“That is why this Government is investing $39 million to help them deal with cash flow pressures caused by COVID-19 cancellations and ensure their future.
“Agricultural shows and field days also play an important role in supporting on-farm innovation, productivity and profitability.
“They bring our families and farmers together, build community spirit and help bridge the divide between country and city.
“We want to assure the dedicated volunteers and communities who work so hard to stage these events that we are with them all the way during these times.
“Agriculture will lead the recovery out of this pandemic, and this support will help ensure the sustainability of these important events into the future.
“Agricultural shows and field days that have cancelled their event in 2020 because of COVID‑19 will be eligible to apply and they will not have to compete for assistance.
“I will continue to encourage my state and territory counterparts to also make a contribution to help agricultural shows and field days survive the impact of COVID-19 because of the positive impact they have on their economies.
“The Australian Government has stepped in to help out agricultural shows and field days during this tough period, and I hope the states and territories can do likewise.”
Dr Rob Wilson welcomed the opening of applications and urged agricultural show societies forced to cancel their 2020 show to apply.
“Agricultural shows have been impacted by COVID-19 and this financial support will assist planning to begin for shows in 2021 and will provide the local communities the confidence to engage and participate, to ensure these Australian iconic events to continue,” Dr Wilson said.
“We know agricultural shows are important to regional and metropolitan Australia as they provide community connections and wellbeing as well as encouraging agricultural education through competition and benchmarking of agricultural pursuits and produce.
“This program supports both the Capital City Royal Shows and right down to the smallest country show.”
Secretary of the Association of Agricultural Field Days of Australasia Ms Wendy Franklin also welcomed the opening of applications.
“Regrettably, COVID-19 has caused almost all agricultural field days in Australia to be cancelled in 2020. This has created financial difficulty for organisers of these important events,” Ms Franklin said.
“I welcome this program because it will provide the funding that many agricultural field day organisers will need to keep their events running in a post-COVID-19 environment.
“This is good news not just for field days but the important agricultural industries they support.”
For more information on how to make an application, click onto the Supporting Agricultural Shows and Field Days program webpage here.
Agricultural show societies and field day organisers will have until 9 October to apply.
Operational support will be available for eligible show societies and agricultural field day organisers.
Funds will be reimbursed for eligible expenses, with the maximum grant value based upon the size of the event:
Up to $10,000 for small shows/field days (attendance was less than 2,000)
Up to $15,000 for medium shows/field days (attendance was between 2,000 and 4,999)
Up to $70,000 for large shows/field days (attendance was over 5,000).
Operational support will also be available for eligible capital city Royal Agricultural Show societies, up to the maximum cap specified for their show.
Supporting Agricultural Shows and Field Days program funding is being provided under the $1 billion Relief and Recovery Fund, led by the Deputy Prime Minister, which is helping regions, communities and industry sectors disproportionately affected by COVID-19.