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Agri-Environment Schemes in Scotland: A Survey of Participants and Non-Participants

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Chapter One Introduction

Background to the study

1.1 Agri-environment schemes have operated in Scotland since 1987. 1 Assistance is provided to farmers and crofters with the aim of encouraging them to manage their land for the benefit of Scotland's wildlife and habitats. Participation in the schemes is for a minimum of five years. As well as providing benefits for biodiversity, participation also helps support local communities in rural areas.

1.2 This report summarises the findings of a farmer survey in 2004 which was commissioned as part of on-going monitoring and evaluation of the impacts of agri-environment schemes by the then Scottish Executive Environment and Rural Affairs Department (now the Rural Directorate of the Scottish Government). The research was undertaken to explore participation in the three Scottish agri-environment schemes operating at the time and was concurrent with a parallel, but separate series, of on-farm environmental survey and monitoring studies. It also gathered information from farmers who had not participated in any of the schemes, to explore their views and reasons for not joining.

1.3 The three schemes covered in this project were the Rural Stewardship Scheme ( RSS), the now closed Countryside Premium Scheme ( CPS), and the Organic Aid Scheme ( OAS). The RSS, part of the Scottish Rural Development Plan, has provided assistance to support farmers, crofters and common grazings committees in the adoption of environmentally friendly practices and to maintain and enhance particular habitats and landscape features. The scheme is discretionary, with all applications being subject to a selection process through a ranking system, and applicants must commit to the scheme for at least five years. They must agree to manage the areas of the land covered and carry out relevant capital works in line with the RSS rules and conditions. Certain general environmental requirements also apply to the whole farm, croft or common grazing, not just to those areas or features that are positively managed under the RSS. The RSS replaced the CPS, which closed to new entrants after the 2000 applications round.

1.4 The OAS and RSS both closed to new applicants in 2006, due the conclusion of the 2000-2006 Scottish Rural Development Plan in December of that year. The OAS has provided payments for farmers to convert to organic methods of farming since 1994. It is proposed that organic aid will be one of a range of measures under tier 3 of Land Management Contracts.

1.5 Agricultural staff in the Scottish Government lead the administration of these schemes, which includes the appraisal of applications, the processing and payment of claims, and on-farm inspections to check compliance with scheme conditions and undertakings. They have overall objectives to meet payment deadlines, application appraisal inspection targets and compliance check inspection targets.

1.6 The aim of the survey reported here was to assess the impacts of the schemes on the farm business, on farmers themselves and on the environment, with specific exploration of key issues, including reasons for joining a scheme; decision-making processes; views expressed on environmental impacts; opinions of scheme implementation; land management impacts and scheme effectiveness.

Survey methodology

Scheme participants

1.7 A postal survey of agri-environment participants in Scottish agri-environment schemes was undertaken in April/May 2004. The questionnaire was designed to optimise the collection of relevant data from respondents. The first part dealt with general background and demographic information about the holding, including farm size, farm type and the nature of the enterprise. The final section addressed questions about the business itself, including tenure status and employment, and more personal information on the respondent including age, retirement plans, education and income. The second and main part of the questionnaire focused upon the scheme agreement and participation, addressing the aim of the study to collect the reasons, views and decisions of participants in each of the three agri-environment schemes.

1.8 The questionnaire for the RSS and CPS were identical, with only a scheme name difference within the covering letter (Appendix 1). The OAS questionnaire (Appendix 2) is broadly equivalent, with some minor adaptations to reflect the scheme's characteristics.

1.9 The numbers of participating farmers, after removing any farmers participating in more than one scheme, was 2,463. This broke down as 952 ( CPS), 1180 ( RSS) and 331 ( OAS). A minimum target of 250 respondents was required, and assuming a response rate of 20%, the participant numbers were halved and then surveyed. The numbers surveyed and the respondents are detailed in Table 1.1.

Table 1.1 Participants surveyed and numbers of respondents

CPS

RSS

OAS

TOTAL

Total nos of Participants, spring 2004

952

1180

331

2463

Nos of participants surveyed

475

590

166

1231

Responses

202

224

60

486

% Response

42.5

38

36

39.5

1.10 The total number of respondents was 486. The response rate for each of the scheme participants was similar and high, giving an average of just under 40%. This response rate was considered very good and, although well over the 250 required for analysis, the data from all responses was used in subsequent analysis.

Non-participants

1.11 The postal survey of non-participants was undertaken in July/August 2004. The questionnaire and covering letter were broadly equivalent with that used for the participants, with some adaptations to reflect the known non-participation. It is included in full in Appendix 3.

1.12 The total number of farmers not participating in an agri-environment scheme is 13,700. From this total a weighted sample of 2,500 was provided by the Scottish Government, reflecting proportional numbers from each of three regions. This approach retains a degree of parity with other survey elements of the ongoing environmental monitoring, and are based on the area offices which deal with applications: 2

South - Ayr, Dumfries, Galashiels, Hamilton

East - Grampian, Perth

West/North - Inverness, Lairg, Oban, Thurso

1.13 The weighted samples were selected by the Scottish Government using the PROCSURVEYSELECT procedure in SAS. The method employed was simple random sampling with no stratification. Using this method, each unit has an equal probability of selection and sampling is without replacement. 3

1.14 As with the survey of participants, a high response rate was considered achievable and, assuming a response rate of 20%, the initial sample was halved. The numbers surveyed and the respondents are detailed in Table 1.2. However, the target of 250 non-participating respondents was not reached with the first half of the survey, and subsequently a further 500 questionnaires were sent out to attain a total response of 353. The data from all these responses was used in subsequent analysis.

Table 1.2 Non-participants surveyed and numbers of respondents

South

East

West/North

TOTAL

Total number of non-participants (not in RSS, CPS, OAS)

4899

5769

3050

13,700

First round. Nos of non-participants surveyed

446

525

279

1250

Responses

190

Second round. Nos of non-participants surveyed

178

210

112

500

Total responses to both surveys

353

% Response of both surveys

20.1%