Agricultural census - FSS 2003 - International practice

The place of farm structure surveys in the system of agricultural statistics of the European Union

a) Information system of the European Union

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) created for the harmonization of agricultural economics in 1957 by the force of the Treaty of Rome forms a peculiar chapter of activities of the European Union distinct from other community activities.

The key objectives set forth in the Treaty of Rome include the boosting of the productivity of agriculture, improving the living standard of and continuity of supply for the agricultural population, stabilizing the market and maintaining an acceptable price level of goods for consumers. The agricultural common market was created after the implementation of CAP in 1962, and the system of agricultural subsidies was elevated to the level of community policies. The reform of CAP accepted in 1992 extended the scope of agricultural responsibilities to the conservation of landscape and cultivation image. The amendment of 1999 made rural development the second pillar of CAP.

A well-known fact is that nearly 45% of the total budget of the European Union is allocated to agricultural expenses. This statement explains the extraordinary frequency and detail of reporting by the member states on the entire agricultural information system including agricultural statistics.

The CAP, being a vital pillar of the European Union, continuously interacts with the agricultural information system. On the one hand, CAP is supported by the information system (e.g. the net income calculated on the basis of the statistics of agricultural households forms a vital instrument of the living standard policy under the CAP) and on the other hand, CAP is a factor driving the on-going upgrading of the agricultural information system of the EU.

The two distinct groups of information systems of the European Union include the

  • primary, and
  • secondary information systems.

The large surveying systems belong to the group of primary information systems. This group includes the:

  • agricultural statistics providing statistical information under the coordination of EUROSTAT;
  • FADN (Farm Accountancy Data Network) developed for the monitoring of financial processes and income position of farms;
  • Market Information System designed to provide input for the EU administration in Brussels and information for producers on the market processes;
  • Integrated Administration and Controlling System developed for the monitoring of awarding of grants, and also for the accounting and administration of payments.

The secondary information systems primarily make use of and process the information of the databases of primary systems, such as the system of agricultural accounts. The objective is to meet the special information needs of a narrower area.

b) The agricultural statistical system of the European Union

The administration of the system of agricultural grants requires special functionalities from the agricultural information system. Most of the information is provided by agricultural statistics constituting one of the most developed modules of the European Union’s statistical system.

The member states produce and provide agricultural statistical information in compliance with the Regulations, Directives, Decisions and the so-called „gentlemen’s agreements” of the European Council and the European Commission. Data exchange takes place via two information channels. EUROSTAT (the statistical office of the Union) provides the input required for general economic analyses and for the formulation of agricultural policy in the framework of cooperation agreements with the official statistical organizations of member states. The input received directly from the member states is used mainly for the purposes of operational control; such data provide mainly up-to-date market information for the Agricultural Directorate General in Brussels (this Directorate General is, in fact, the Ministry of Agriculture of the Union).

The system of farm structure surveys

The system of farm structure surveys of the Community is built on the agricultural censuses conducted once every 10 years and connected with the global censuses of FAO, and the structure surveys implemented at 2-3 year intervals. The farm structure surveys are designed to cover 99 per cent of the agricultural output of each member state. Council Regulations stipulate the types of questions in the survey questionnaire relating to the

  • geographic location of the farm;
  • management and legal status of the farm;
  • title of land use;
  • use of the arable land by crops i.e. by sowing area;
  • kitchen gardening, grassland farming;
  • plantations;
  • interplanted crops, successive crops, mushroom production, agrotechnique, uncultivated land and subsidized fallow;
  • livestock;
  • agricultural machines and equipment;
  • employment and characteristics of farm labour;
  • other activities such as forestry, fishing, rural tourism, food processing.

The Council Regulations also stipulate the processing of data and the autonomy of implementations offering an elbow room for the member states to assert the peculiarities of national agriculture in the surveys.

The Council Regulation decreeing the survey set the goal for each member state to carry on the harmonization activity commenced earlier through the preservation of features, definitions and geographic units of earlier farm structure surveys and the periodic observation at regular intervals of any changes that may take place in the structure of farming.

Farm structure surveys constitute the vital input for the investigation of land use, animal husbandry by size and activity types of the farms.

Correlation between the farm structure surveys and the classification of farms by size and activity type

There is a uniform classification system in place in the EU for the classification of farms observed on the basis of the results of the farm structure surveys. The Community Typology is a standard classification whereby farms are grouped into homogeneous classes based on size and structure of activities. This typology facilitates the economic analysis of farms and assures comparability among various classes of the typology across member states or regions of member states in various periods.

The Standard Gross Margin (SGM) expressed in monetary terms was introduced in the EU for the classification of farms. SGM is the value added per one unit of production (1 hectare, 1 head of livestock); it is calculated as the balance between the standard gross value of production and the standard value of certain specific variable costs. By applying the SGM definition the following four types of farms, and further broken down to sub-classes were created:

  • general types of farming such as field cropping, grazing livestock;
  • principle types of farming, such as dairy farming, horticultural farming;
  • particular types of farming such as rice production, poultry farming; and
  • subdivisions of the particular types of farming such as egg production, tobacco farming.

Link between the farm structure surveys and the farm production statistics

In the period between two farm structure surveys the production statistics are prepared on the basis of the annual land and plant cultivation surveys and the livestock surveys conducted several times a year.

The production statistics of the EU covers the two key resources of production namely land area and livestock, and also the key characteristics of plant cultivation and animal husbandry. Production data constitute the basic information for compilation of the supply balances of approximately 130 products to be prepared compulsory by the member states.

Vineyard and orchard censuses are conducted at 5-10 year intervals. In the period between two censuses the annual changes of plantation area and the related production are surveyed.

Link between the farm structure surveys and the monetary statistics of farms

The EU monetary statistics include the agricultural price statistics, the income statistics of agricultural households and the statistics of agricultural labour and wages. Price statistics include the calculation of price indices on the basis of the producer prices of agricultural products and observations of prices of industrial products used for agricultural production. The income statistics of agricultural households provides the basis for the calculation of disposable net income. The unit of labour input constituting the instrument of comparability is calculated on the basis of agricultural labour statistics.

Monetary statistics uses input data from the farm structure surveys and the annual and monthly observations in the period between two farm structure surveys.

Link between farm structure surveys and the EUROFARM database

The EUROFARM database of the Statistical Office of the European Union (EUROSTAT) includes the results of farm structure surveys presented in the structure to meet the needs of the Community and the national agricultural policy. The EUROFARM database is composed of several standalone databases, such as the Individual Database (BDI), the Tabular Database (BDT), and databases including tabulation programmes required for verification of data processing, nomenclatures, and tables of data for public access.

The Individual Database (BDI) includes the details of all farms or the representative universe of observed farms in a form excluding the possibility of identification and always in compliance with the privacy regulations. The Tabular Database (BDT) includes the observation results and the data files required for verification in a tabular form. The standard tables of the Tabular Database are supplemented occasionally by ad-hoc tables.