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Agribusiness News February 2024 – Sector Focus: Data

1 February 2024

What is happening in the EU?

For many years, the Scottish Government followed the requirement of EU membership to report on national agricultural economics directly to the EU.  This involved recruiting over 400 farms in Scotland to participate in the Scottish Farm Business Survey.

This data gathering informs the iteration of the CAP, as well as delivering economic insights for Governments on the economic viability of farm businesses, providing the evidence base to inform agricultural policy decision making.  It also delivers a national group average for businesses benchmarking.

When we look at the EU legislative transition from Farm Accounts Data Network to Farm Sustainability Data Network, the EU is concerned primarily about measuring and monitoring four key themes: 1. Nutrient Use and Management, 2. Biodiversity, 3. Generational Renewal, and 4. Market Integration.

The focus on Generational Renewal in the EU reflects the oft observed aging agricultural workforce statistic, a global agricultural and food production problem, for which Scotland is not an exception.

However, standing still is not an option and as the EU prioritises these outcomes, it will be of huge interest to see how policy develops to address securing the workforce for the future of the industry.

Economic, and Environmental Sustainability

There is a wider concept here though.  Businesses agricultural or otherwise, are now not only measured by their economics.  As primary producers, farm businesses interact with the earth’s natural resources to produce food, but also are managing the land for a new range of outcomes, many of them environmental, and which have much potential to deliver financial value.

Further to this, the supply chain is now driving significant change and is looking for ways to support its suppliers to help them deliver on their legislative commitment for scope 3 emissions reporting coming in 2025.

Managing and implementing change in farm business systems to respond to the new sustainability model, comes with its pressures.  Its importance in policy development should not be understated, not least to adapt to changing business pressures from the supply chain, but also the industry responsibility to demonstrate value to consumers.

Governments have the financial resources to invest in emissions reduction measures achievable on farm and can support producers on a journey to deliver the carbon and nature value that can be created with changes to management practices on farm.

However, this is not just a financial investment but also an investment of time and personal resource, on behalf of the owners and managers in that farm business, so it is not as straightforward as it sounds.

Why is data gathering still important post Brexit?

Following Brexit, this legislative reporting to the EU is no longer required.

So why is it important to continue to track EU priorities for its farm level data gathering?  For a start, Scottish Government has a stated ambition to remain aligned with the EU, but also there is an opportunity to observe their progress on sustainability measurement and monitoring, and what impact their subsequent policy interventions have on the agricultural industry in the EU.

As Scottish farmers and growers grapple with complex sustainability issues, it can be useful for primary producers to understand the international perspective, both for insights as to what the emerging EU legislative issues are, but also for potential solutions, that can be translated to the Scottish scenario.

From a Scottish government perspective, the purpose of continuing government data gathering on farms is to deliver evidence to inform policy decision making, helping policy to support activities on farms that deliver government aims and goals around food production, environmental improvement, and addressing legislative commitments.

It also informs the provision of advisory services to farmers and should deliver data for farms to benchmark their performance against in all measures of sustainability.

Scottish Government has recently published new experimental statistics on Scottish Agriculture’s emissions data and nitrogen usage on farm. This farm level information is in its very early stages but is an important development to begin to address the farm level data gaps found in emissions data, especially around quantification of the losses of nitrogen within farming systems.


Sascha Grierson, 07557 661316

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