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Largest ever survey of Scottish farming set to commence

By David Porter

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The survey will look at plans for the next five years
The survey will look at plans for the next five years

A QUARTER of Scottish farmers will be contacted about their plans for the next five years as part of the largest and longest-running survey of its kind.

The Scottish Government-funded Farmer Intentions Survey, organised by SRUC and The James Hutton Institute, is conducted every five years to inform agricultural policy across all types of farms.

Farmers will be asked to outline how their plans have changed since the last survey in 2018 and what their plans are for the next five years, to help gauge what is driving their decision making.

It comes as Scottish farmers face ongoing concerns over fertiliser and energy costs, as well as the cost-of-living crisis, pressure around climate change and biodiversity, and upcoming changes in regulations and funding.

Dr Laure Kuhfuss, an agricultural/environmental economist and lead researcher on the project from the Hutton, said: “By participating in the survey, farmers are providing critical information that policy makers need to know about the challenges and opportunities facing the industry, how these have changed and what’s driving them.

“It is evidence that they can and do return to, with policy officers regularly contacting our researchers at the Hutton and SRUC to ask about specific findings, from how environmental measures influence behaviour to the role of women on farms and extent of different types of farm diversification.”

In the last survey, around three quarters of Scottish farmers interviewed said they had a sceptical or pessimistic view of how the industry would look post-Brexit.

However, many were positive about investment with just under 40 per cent wanting to increase their level of capital investment and half their investment in new technology, while 20 per cent wanted to diversify or increase the amount of renewable energy on their farm.

Professor Klaus Glenk, who works in environmental and resource economics and is SRUC’s lead on the project, said: “Some of these issues are still lingering, such as Brexit and an interest in diversification and alternative forms of energy, including bioenergy which is one of the additional areas we will focus on in this year’s survey. Being able to track how attitudes to these topics change is a powerful tool.”

“Preceding surveys have shown us that Scottish farmers and crofters are more innovative than they think, as it captures what they think they will change and then shows they actually change even more,” added Dr Kuhfuss.

“It’s terrific for highlighting the innovation and progress of the Scottish agricultural sector.”

As well as broader questions around farm management and investment activities, this year’s survey will also look at farm diversification, bioenergy, attitudes towards regulation and risk, resistance to change and uptake of best practise.

Participants - chosen to make sure the survey is representative - will have received a letter from the Hutton and SRUC.

They will then be contacted by the agency Progressive Partnership which will conduct telephone interviews between now and October 2023.

All responses to the survey will be confidential and final outputs will be made publicly available.

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