Agricultural shows tipped to return, federal government grants $25m

A $25-million support package has been announced for COVID-hit agricultural shows and field days to help them return in 2022.

The federal government announced it would extend the Supporting Agricultural Shows and Field Day Program by $21 million this year and has committed to a $4 million program to support showmen and women.

The head of Australia’s peak show society said the funding was fantastic news for local and Royal shows.

“They have been doing it very tough with no ability to generate income over this last year, and it’s wonderful to see the support of the federal government for our ag shows,” Agricultural Shows Australia executive officer Katie Stanley said.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said more than 700 shows and field days had been cancelled since the start of the pandemic, including more than 250 pull the pin this year.

Mr Littleproud said under the first round last year, 378 shows shared in $34.5 million to help cover cancellation costs and said the new funding would further “back these iconic events”.

“Agricultural shows and field days contribute more than $1 billion to the economy annually, attract more than six million patrons, and are supported by more than 50,000 volunteers and more than 4,000 showmen and women,” he said.

Large crowds attend the Royal Queensland Show
The Queensland Royal Show, the Ekka, was cancelled just days before the gates were due to open in August.(AAP Image: Dan Peeled)

Huge optimism for upcoming Royal shows

Ms Stanley said one of the biggest recipients would undoubtedly be the Ekka, the Royal Queensland Show, which was forced to shut the gates at the last minute in August. 

“There is an enormous amount of expenses that are incurred leading right up to the show gates opening, and in the Ekka’s instance being a Royal Show, it’s exponential in comparison to potentially a regional show,” she said. 

This month, Royal Hobart Show will celebrate 200 years, and Ms Stanley is 100 per cent optimistic Sydney Royal will celebrate its bicentenary in 2022.

Ms Stanley said the ASA started lobbying the government for the funding when things started to go a little pear-shaped earlier in the year. 

“Around May, June we realised that all our shows coming into spring were not going to be able to take place, which for some of those shows that’s two years in a row that they have been unable to generate any income,” she said.

“So, we really started to have a conversation with the federal government again at that point really highlighting the fact that without any support, these shows will unfortunately not make it through to the other side.” 

Mr Littleproud said the Supporting Agricultural Shows and Field Days Program would allow those events which have been cancelled to claim for eligible expenses.

Kate Nugent stands in front of a droughtmaster bull.
Kate Nugent is confident AgQuip can return to the calendar next year, after two COVID cancellations.(ABC New England North West: Jennifer Ingall)

Field days warming up too

Field day organisers are also preparing for a return. For many, it will be the first time since 2019.

The organiser of Australia’s largest primary industry field day, AgQuip, Kate Nugent, said that event alone had suffered millions of dollars in losses.

The three-day Gunnedah, NSW, event attracts more than 30,000 visitors daily but had to cancel for a second year.

Ms Nugent said she welcomed any extension of financial support.

“It’s most important to recognise that we have a need to help us with our cash flow pressures and enable us to retain our event management teams.”

Also speaking on behalf of the Association of Agricultural Field Days of Australasia, Ms Nugent said many members needed the extra assistance.

“We’ve had to implement measures to survive. We are just so grateful for the support that all of us have received.