Evaluation of the AgriFutures National Rural Issues Program 2016-2020

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Australia’s rural industries operate in a complex and dynamic environment, often facing a common set of evolving challenges and opportunities. Within this environment, AgriFutures Australia is uniquely placed to lead cross-sectoral conversations on rural issues of national and global significance. A core component of this work is investing in thought-provoking and horizon-scanning research that informs and improves policy debate via our National Rural Issues (NRI) Program. The Program seeks to directly address barriers to growth and help industry and governments respond to opportunities.

The purpose of this evaluation was to provide AgriFutures Australia and its partners with an economic, environmental and social assessment of the NRI Program from 1 July 2016 to 30 June 2020. The key deliverable was a cost-benefit analysis that would inform industry, Research and Development Corporations (RDCs), the community and Government about the benefits derived from NRI Program investment. A second purpose of the evaluation was to support research, development and extension (RD&E) planning and decision-making through detailing returns on investment from past AgriFutures NRI Program investments (2016-2020).

The impact assessment of the NRI Program addressed a population of 18 projects. Total funding from all sources for these projects totalled $3.18 million (present value terms). Of the 18 projects, the impacts from 10 of the projects were valued. Funding for the 10 projects where impacts were valued totalled $2.29 million (present value terms), 72% of total funding, and produced aggregate total expected benefits of $7.95 million (present value terms). This gave an estimated net present value of $5.66 million, and a benefit-cost ratio of approximately 3.5 to 1.

When the benefits of the impacts valued ($7.95 million) were compared with the total investment in all projects in the population ($3.18 million), this lowered the investment criteria. The total investment in the 18 projects produced an estimated net present value of $4.78 million (present value terms), and a benefit-cost ratio of 2.5 to 1.

It was concluded, given the assumptions made in valuing the impacts, that the benefit-cost ratio for the investment in the NRI Program lies somewhere between 2.5 and 3.5 to 1.

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