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 The James Hutton Institute and Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), 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, says: “By participating in the survey, farmers are providing critical information that policy makers need to know about the challenges and opportunities facing Scottish farmers, how these have changed and what’s driving them.
“It’s 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 be post-Brexit. Many were also positive about investment, including in new technology. Just under 40% wanted to increase their level of capital investment, half wanted to increase investment in new technology and 20% wanted to diversify or increase level of renewable energy on their farm.
Professor Klaus Glenk, who works in environmental and resource economics and is SRUC’s lead on the project, says: “Some of these issues are still lingering, for example Brexit, but also an interest in diversification and alternative forms of energy, such as 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,” adds Dr Kuhfuss. “So 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 an agency, Progressive Partnership, who will conduct telephone interviews between now and October 2023, at a time that suits the farmer. All responses to the survey will be confidential and final outputs will be made publicly available.