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

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Chapter Two Results and Analysis

2.1 This chapter presents the data and analysis from all elements of the study. A total of 846 questionnaire responses were received, split across the groups as follows:

RSS 228

CPS 205

OAS 60

Non-participant 353

2.2 The first part of this chapter outlines the farm 'demographics'. Any immediately evident differences between the groups are highlighted. The second part analyses responses to the parts of the questionnaire in terms of the schemes and their impacts.

Demographics

Farm size

2.3 The total area of farmland covered by the survey was just under 295,000ha (excluding 50 respondents who opted not to complete this part of the questionnaire). Despite 42% of the respondents being non-participants, the land in question comprised just 27.2% of the total, whereas the CPS participants farmed just under 100,000ha (34%), from 24% of the respondents. This suggests that participant farmers have larger farms than non-participants, reflected in the data in Table 2.1.

Table 2.1 Farm size

Farm size

Percentage of respondents in category

Non-participant (n=353)

Participant (n=493)

CPS (n=205)

RSS (n=228)

OAS (n=60)

<5ha

4.8

2.2

1.0

3.1

3.3

5-20 ha

9.6

5.3

3.9

6.6

5.0

20-50ha

12.5

8.5

6.3

11.4

5.0

50-100ha

24.1

11.8

13.7

10.1

11.7

100-500ha

36.5

48.1

47.8

49.6

43.3

>500ha

7.1

17.8

20.5

13.6

25.0

No reply

5.4

6.3

6.8

5.7

6.7

Average (ha)

239.6

463.3

521.9

421.4

424.4

2.4 The average farm size of a participant was 463ha, almost double that of the average non-participant. CPS farms were by far the largest at 522ha, with RSS and OAS farms being fairly similar in size. However, OAS respondent were highly skewed towards the large end of the spectrum - 25% of OAS respondents had farms of 500ha+, compared to 7.1% for non-participants, and still 40% higher than the average for participants.

2.5 It is also noteworthy that the higher representation of larger farms appeared to have lessened with the introduction of RSS over the CPS, so it may be that size is no longer the perceived barrier it once may have been. However, the perception of small farm size as a barrier to joining a scheme is further addressed below.

Farm type

2.6 Each respondent was self-categorised by farm type (Table 2.2). Initial findings from these data include:

  • participants were much more likely to be mixed farms - but this hides some intra-scheme differences;
  • RSS has an increased number of arable farms, but a lower number of sheep farms. In part this may be a factor of high numbers of sheep farms already participating in existing schemes;
  • OAS was dominated by sheep farms, with a lower mixed element (related to large, hill farm size).

Table 2.2 Farm type

Farm Type

Percentage of respondents in category

Non-participant (n=353)

Participant (n=493)

CPS (n=205)

RSS (n=228)

OAS (n=60)

Mainly Arable

18.1

14.0

10.7

19.3

5.0

Mainly Dairy

7.6

3.4

3.4

2.6

6.7

Mainly Beef

17.6

16.2

17.1

16.2

13.3

Mainly Sheep

19.0

21.3

22.9

14.0

43.3

Pigs & Poultry

0.6

0.2

0.0

0.4

0.0

Other Livestock

1.1

0.8

1.0

0.4

1.7

Mixed

34.3

42.4

42.9

45.2

30.0

Other

0.6

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

No Reply

1.1

1.6

2.0

1.8

0.0

Farmer age

2.7 Broad age ranges of the participant and non-participant farmers were identified (Table 2.3). Key findings are:

  • participants tended to be slightly younger, but this does not show up to a great extent until we reach the over 65 group;
  • it was difficult to see a pattern across the data apart from a concentration of participants in the 41 to 50 range;
  • significant difference in OAS scheme-participation, with 55-59 year olds being most common, younger farmers (31-40) also well represented, and the older (60 and over) being distinctly uncommon. The low representation of farmers over 60 is likely to be largely connected to the five-year commitment required for these schemes.

Table 2.3 Farmer age

Farmer Age

Percentage of respondents in category

Non-participant (n=353)

Participant (n=493)

CPS (n=205)

RSS (n=228)

OAS (n=60)

30 or under

2.5

1.8

1.0

2.6

1.7

31 to 40

14.7

17.4

14.6

18.0

25.0

41 to 50

13.6

23.5

22.0

25.9

20.0

50 to 54

18.4

15.8

17.1

14.9

15.0

55 to 59

17.8

19.1

18.5

16.7

30.0

60 to 64

15.0

12.6

15.6

12.3

3.3

65 or older

15.9

8.3

9.8

8.3

3.3

No reply

2.5

1.6

1.5

1.8

1.7

Organisation membership

2.8 To assess a broad measure of connection with environmental interests, membership of key organisations were identified (Table 2.4). The initial main findings are:

  • membership of organisations was higher amongst participants, particularly that of Historic Scotland - although the numbers were small;
  • CPS participants were slightly more likely to have a membership(s) than others. Whether this is a cause or effect can only be speculated;
  • OAS participants are less likely to be a member of any organisation than even the non-participants (with the exception of the Farming Wildlife and Advisory Group [ FWAG]), although there is a requirement for organic producers to be members of a sector body such as the Soil Association. This phenomenon may be a factor of farm size and was particularly notable for wildlife charities.

Table 2.4 Organisation membership

Farm Type

Percentage of respondents in category

Non-participant (n=353)

Participant (n=493)

CPS (n=205)

RSS (n=228)

OAS (n=60)

NFUS/ Scottish Crofters

36.0

49.1

53.2

49.1

35.0

FWAG

8.2

26.0

25.9

28.9

15.0

Wildlife Charity

5.9

8.7

10.7

7.9

5.0

NTS

11.3

13.8

19.5

10.5

6.7

Historic Scotland

1.1

4.1

4.4

4.4

1.7

Other

12.7

12.4

12.7

12.3

11.7

None/No Reply

42.5

31.2

26.3

31.6

46.7

Qualitative responses

2.9 The attitudinal responses provided by both participants and non-participants to specific areas of inquiry are explored in this section.

2.10 In those questions where a graded response (extremely important = 1 and not important = 5) was requested, initial analysis focused upon a simple averaging of responses for comparative purposes. Consideration was given to subsequent analysis of a weighted scoring system to increase differentiation of the results. However, a more accurate interpretation of the results is presented using graphs representing the individual percentage responses.

2.11 In the following sections, a specific theme is addressed and key findings from the participants or non-participants highlighted. This analysis is then supported by findings derived from additional comments provided by the participants and non-participants. Selected and direct quotations are used to further illustrate these.

Reasons for joining

2.12 Reasons for joining a scheme were identified across a range from 'extremely important' to 'not important'. Identical questions were used for RSS and CPS participants. OAS participants were offered an adjusted set of reasons to reflect the nature of this particular scheme.

Participants

2.13 The most significant of a range of identified reasons for applying to join RSS or CPS are detailed in Figure 2.1. There are clear levels of importance attributed to environmental factors, including both increasing the variety of biodiversity and improving the landscape. The levels of importance given to the annual and capital payments, as also detailed in Fig 2.1, support the relative importance attributed to the financial benefits. The support attributed to fencing and to dykes and hedging is also likely to be directly linked and incentivised by the associated capital payments. In comparing RSS and CPS, there is an evident and high degree of consistency in these overall results.

2.14 The majority of all comments added to the participants' reasons for applying to join RSS (n = 75) reflect and support either (i) an environmental interest or responsibility particularly for wildlife and landscape, for instance, "To improve the farm for wildlife and keep it in good order for future generations", or (ii) the financial benefits including linkage with CAP reform, for example, "To claim back subsidy payment". Almost all the CPS (n = 82) comments are broadly equivalent to RSS with an approximate split between environmental and financial benefits, but without specific reference to CAP reform and changes to agricultural support payments. It should be noted that modulation part-funded RSS but was not in place at the time of the CPS. Many comments reflected a combined reason for joining, e.g. "Financially assist income to allow stock reduction to help maintain environment".

Figure 2.1 Reasons for joining the scheme

Figure 2.1 Reasons for joining the scheme

Figure 2.1 Reasons for joining the scheme

Other reasons offered by RSS and CPS included a few with implications to positive peer pressure such as "long time supporter of FWAG and its aims". However, knowledge of people who had found RSS or CPS to be successful was not an important factor in the decision-making process to join the respective scheme as indicated in Fig 2.2.

2.15 Other noteworthy comments refer to the role that RSS and CPS can provide in the wider management context of the farm as a whole, for instance: "to collect a fragmented conservation programme into a coherent scheme", "help to comply with ever increasing cross compliance", "making some value of the unproductive areas of the farm".

Figure 2.2 Knowing people who have found the scheme to be successful

Figure 2.2 Knowing people who have found the scheme to be successful

2.16 The factors and attributed levels of importance given by OAS participants do not indicate any initial pattern(s). However, the comments from OAS participants (n = 26), as with RSS and CPS, strongly reflected financial benefits, with one half of respondents citing this as a reason for joining the scheme. There were examples where this was included with a secondary reason, e.g., "Income in the first instance, but now more enjoyment from farming". There were no comments directly related to the environment in the same way as for RSS and CPS, but a small number cited separate factors including a desire to get "out of the rat race", animal health concerns and the progression from a near organic status to start with.

2.17 To add further endorsement to the key reasons for joining, participants were asked to rank four key statements as factors in their decision to join a scheme. The rankings of three of these reasons are compared in Fig 2.3 between RSS and CPS. Participants' role in the upkeep of the environment was supported, but was concurrent with the value attached to needing the money to pay for the work.

2.18 OAS participants showed less emphasis on the relative importance indicated for upkeep of the environment compared with RSS and CPS. However, the importance of the factor 'payments made it a good business move' was ranked highly by OAS participants, but not for RSS and CPS. This is also supported by the equivalent ranking attributed to the need 'for payments to cover the cost of conversion'. In addition, participants were asked to rank reasons if they were intending not to reapply to RSS (covering both RSS and the closed CPS schemes) or OAS. No clear patterns were evident for the former schemes, but a high proportion of OAS participants were not intending to reapply. Of these, over 70% ranked insufficient payments as the first reason (Fig 2.4).

2.19 The fourth reason, the "scheme pays me to do what I would do anyway", indicated no discernible ranking pattern from participants of any scheme.

Figure 2.3 Ranked reasons for joining scheme

Figure 2.3 Ranked reasons for joining scheme

Figure 2.3 Ranked reasons for joining scheme

Figure 2.4 Ranked reason for not joining maintenance element of OAS - "The payments are insufficient" (n=42)

Figure 2.4 Ranked reason for not joining maintenance element of OAS - "The payments are insufficient" (n=42)

Non-participants

2.19 The most significant of a range of equivalent reasons to elicit levels of importance given for not applying to a scheme are presented in Fig 2.5. There is not as strong a pattern of importance attributable to annual and capital payments as indicated with RSS and CPS. Again, there was a low level of importance attributed to knowing other people who had found the scheme to be unsuccessful. However, the researchers are wary of drawing conclusions from this given the complexity involved in terms of expecting non-participants to be able to accurately answer this comparative set of questions.

Figure 2.5 Factors influencing non-application by non-participants (n=353)

Figure 2.5 Factors influencing non-application by non-participants (n=353)

2.20 However, comments were received from a large number of non-participants (n = 141), of which those most frequently cited, broadly reflected negative concerns with issues related to time, bureaucracy or interference with other farming decisions (32 respondents). These are demonstrated by quotes such as, "A desire to keep bureaucracy as far away as possible - desk drivers and farming are incompatible", and "Difficult to get enough ranking points for entry and administration burden can outweigh small financial benefits".

2.21 There were several other recurrent reasons for not applying (the number of farmers providing that view indicated in brackets).

  • Economic reasons, including a case directly relating to potential changes as a consequence of CAP reform (12):

"As we are quite heavily stocked we could not really afford to have less grazing area. But with CAP reform things have changed."

  • A sense of pride/ desire to continue to manage their environment without schemes (12):

"I wanted to reclaim some control for the environmental work I did without having a policy enforced on me."

  • The issue of age of farmer arises as a reason for not applying (11), e.g., "Being of retirement age I was not interested". This position contrasts with broader anecdotal information and from a response picked up in a subsequent question - "As I've got older I've found the environment has become more important to me". However, the point has already been made that the five-year commitment demanded of these schemes would be a dissuading factor for potential applicants approaching retirement age.
  • The small size of a holding again was raised as an issue, against another perception of advantage afforded to large farms (11), e.g.:

"I feel strongly that it is only the bigger farms that seem to be able to enter these schemes. I would not be able to get enough points if I applied and I would waste a lot of money trying".

  • Problems arising between tenant and landlord (5), e.g., "Need to include whole farm would have meant involving unco-operative landlord".
  • Although this question was directed at non-participation of all or any agri-environment scheme, several clearly indicated that their lack of belief in organic farming and products which would indicate their non-participation in OAS.

Scheme impacts on the holding

2.22 An assessment of the levels of agreement to a number of statements directly connecting a range of impacts of the scheme upon the management of the farm holding was explored. Only those statements that indicated a clear pattern of agreement or disagreement are presented here. Identical questions were used for scheme participants. Non-participants were asked an equivalent series of questions for comparative purposes.

Participants

2.23 There are clear consistencies in the levels of agreement covering a number of aspects across all three schemes (Fig 2.6). RSS, CPS and OAS participants indicated that they were satisfied that payments covered the cost of work involved or of conversion (in the case of OAS), and there was a degree of importance attributed to the income stream from the schemes as part of the total income from the individual holding, most notably with OAS. The findings did not indicate a pattern that scheme participation makes the management of the farm easier, but there is a clear indication that participants did perceive that they manage their holdings in a more environmentally sensitive way. All scheme participants were generally pleased to have joined their scheme.

2.24 The additional comments offered in association with this area of inquiry into the scheme impacts produced a generally varied response from RSS (n = 67), CPS (n = 63) and OAS (n = 17). Several RSS and CPS participants did articulate some concerns with the lack of flexibility of scheme prescriptions. Generally, there was understanding, but an evident frustration, with respect to grazing and cutting restrictions - "Complicated to manage due to so many different dates and prescriptions"; the general benefit to the asset value of the individual farms - "As a tenant I am benefiting -and the landlord more so"; and a recognition of additional marketing value -

"Whilst the income and capital are both important improving the environment also makes the farm produce easier to sell. Good PR etc."

2.25 There were clear concerns with the financial implications of annual and capital costs ( e.g. for fencing) not being adequately matched by the scheme payments, particularly with examples from CPS. However, this was not generally the case (Fig 2.6). A related aspect of potentially some significance is identified by a comment from a RSS participant identifying the role of the schemes within the available work cycles of the farm holding ("Provides work at slack times in the farm calendar").

Non-participants

2.26 Non-participants were asked an equivalent series of questions for comparative purposes, and those that produced clear patterns of levels of agreement are detailed in Fig 2.7. Concerns around the payments involved are evident, most notably uncertainty of costs and hidden costs of the schemes. Similar to the levels expressed by the participants, but less marked, is the pattern indicated that non-participants do recognise that they would manage their holdings in a more environmentally friendly way if in a scheme.

2.27 A range of comments was offered from non-participants (n = 52) with a general antipathy and concern expressed in relation to paperwork and general interference, such as "If these schemes are typical, the administration/bureaucracy would outweigh the advantages". Several (7) recognised the positive environmental benefits that would impact on the holding, but a smaller number raised negative concerns for environmental impact, particularly in relation to a potential increase in weeds or vermin.

Figure 2.6 Levels of agreement of scheme impacts on holdings

Figure 2.6 Levels of agreement of scheme impacts on holdings

Figure 2.7 Levels of agreement of scheme impacts on non-participant's holdings (n=353)

Figure 2.7 Levels of agreement of scheme impacts on non-participant's holdings (n=353)

Environmental impacts of schemes

2.28 Participating farmers were asked for their assessment of the environmental impacts of the various schemes. There was a general and strong consistency of agreement between the participants of RSS, CPS and OAS, as detailed in Fig 2.8. A significant proportion of all participants believed that there had been an increase in biodiversity, and that the schemes had increased their environmental knowledge. The positive impacts of participation on the appearance of the landscape were limited to RSS and CPS only, with no discernible pattern evident from OAS.

2.29 The additional comments offered in association with this area of inquiry into the environmental impacts of scheme participation are addressed in two parts: (i) changes in species abundance, and (ii) other environmental impacts. These are dealt with below.

Changes in species abundance

2.30 A high proportion of RSS participants responded to the question about an increase in species abundance (n= 182) with over half (118) answering 'no' or variations on the negative. However, in a high proportion of these responses, this is clearly perceived as due to only recent participation in the scheme typified by comments such as "too early to say". A third of participants (64) answered positively to varying degrees. Those who perceived an increase in species variety frequently cited higher profile species including songbirds, gamebirds and raptors. Mammals such as rabbit and hare were also cited. Not all increases were viewed in a positive light, for example one respondent cited an increase in docks and couch grass.

2.31 A comparatively lower proportion of CPS participants (total responding n = 158) answered 'no' or variations on the negative (26), and in only two cases was participation in the scheme typified by a comment equivalent to "too early to say". A very high proportion (130) answered positively to varying degrees, with a perceived increase in species abundance frequently cited for higher profile species including songbirds, lapwings, buzzards, and hares, as well as heather and wildflowers. Similarly to RSS, not all increases are viewed in a positive light, with a number (7) citing undesirable weeds including thistles and ragwort.

2.32 The responses from OAS participants (n = 53) are evenly spread between 'no' or variations on the negative (18) and those answering positively to varying degrees (22). Those who perceived an increase in species abundance more frequently cited higher profile species including a variety of birds (13). Clover is also cited, as might be expected within an organic system, as well as a high proportion of undesirable weeds (9), and a single example cited an increase in "advisers and inspectors".

Other environmental impacts of the scheme

2.33 RSS (n = 68), CPS (n = 73) and OAS (n = 25) participants generally provided additional positive responses but concerns were also raised in respect of weed problems. Non-participants (n = 52) were also asked for comment to an adapted question. A number perceived no or little environmental impact, but some recognised that there might be environmental improvements like increased bird numbers. Many were evidently proud of and recognised the environmental value of their land, that scheme participation was not a prerequisite, and managing the environment had been and was a part of their farming ("I have always nurtured the wildlife and fauna on this farm and will continue to do so").

Management changes from scheme-participation

2.34 All participants were asked to consider their farming and conservation activities if they were no longer in a scheme. The changes to specific activities for each of the schemes are detailed in Fig 2.9. A decrease in conservation land management levels is indicated across all schemes, with the levels of field boundary maintenance more evident for RSS in particular and CPS participants. A consistent and high proportion of all participants in all schemes indicate no change to either of these activities.

2.35 The levels of intensity of farming activity, measured by levels of perceived intensity of stocking and cropping are also indicated for all schemes in Fig 2.9. Of particular note are the evident levels of increases cited for both activities by OAS participants. These are in contrast to the more moderate levels of change indicated by RSS and CPS participants.

Figure 2.8 Environmental impacts of schemes

Figure 2.8 Environmental impacts of schemes

Figure 2.9 Changes in intensity of farming and conservation if no longer in a scheme

Figure 2.9 Changes in intensity of farming and conservation if no longer in a scheme

Scheme management

2.36 An assessment of the levels of agreement to a number of statements directly connecting a range of impacts of the management of the schemes themselves was also explored. Only those statements that indicate a clear pattern of agreement or disagreement, or are part of a comparative dataset, are presented in the analysis. Equivalent questions were used for both participants and non-participants.

Participants

2.37 RSS and CPS participants show some consistency in their views that the schemes are easy to implement, indicated in Fig 2.10. This is supported to a large extent by the more balanced and positive views expressed on amounts and complexity of paperwork, especially by CPS. However, a divergent pattern is indicated by OAS participants' views on the ease of the scheme's implementation, as detailed in Fig 2.8. That the paperwork was considered both too much and too complicated is more evident. The views of OAS participants may have been coloured by experiences of completing paperwork (for instance, conversion plans or for annual certification) required by the sector body of which organic producers must be a member.

2.38 RSS and CPS participants thought that the government run the schemes efficiently (Fig 2.11). This would complement and support the data on ease of implementation and paperwork. However, it is notable that OAS participants also rated positively government efficiency in running the OAS scheme, in contrast to stated levels of agreement about the ease of implementation and negative views of paperwork required.

2.39 Just under 50% of the additional comments offered on scheme management by RSS participants (n = 52) broadly reflect concerns about complexity of application procedure, delays in approval of works and lack of management flexibility. Comments also indicated that any problems with paperwork and such administrative tasks could be to some extent avoided by use of advisory consultants. The Scottish Agricultural College ( SAC) were mentioned on several occasions and FWAG once.

2.40 A substantial proportion (40%) of CPS participants (n = 47) provided favourable responses about the scheme administration and RSS participants mentioned the Scottish government on a number of occasions to provide either very positive or very negative responses. Evidently some participants have had good experiences, others less so: " SEERAD have been as helpful as usual"; " CPS participation needs sensitive and flexible and understanding management not only by those directly involved but also by SEERAD. The latter find it easier to police agreements rather than manage them in the spirit required". 4 The use and role of SAC or other farm advisors were raised in only two cases.

2.41 A small number of additional comments arising from OAS participants (n = 14) raised concerns about the amount and complexity of associated bureaucracy, and the parallel demands of organic assurance ( e.g. the Soil Association, the Scottish Organic Producers Association [ SOPA]): "Paperwork and complicated paperwork apply to Soil Association, not SEERAD which requires minimum paperwork". There was a clear distinction between OAS and assurance schemes made by these individual participants, but it is possible that there was a blurring in perceptions of the associated schemes' paperwork and administration in the responses given in Fig 2.10. At the very least, the negative concerns with the assurance schemes, and the implications to OAS need to be considered.

Figure 2.10 Scheme management

Figure 2.10 Scheme management

Figure 2.11 Opinions on whether the Government run the schemes efficiently

Figure 2.11 Opinions on whether the Government run the schemes efficiently

Non-participants

2.42 Non-participants were asked for their perceptions of the ease and paperwork associated with scheme participation (Fig 2.12). Non-participants tended towards the view that the schemes are not easy to implement, and, similarly to the OAS participants, that there is too much complicated paperwork. No pattern is evident on the views offered on Government's perceived efficiency in running the schemes.

2.43 An unexpectedly high number of non-participants commented on the management of schemes (n = 50). Concerns raised in a number of responses (14) included the complexity and time needed for the schemes set against financial returns, general concerns about the lack of practical knowledge of the staff involved in running the schemes and only potential success rate for applications: "The view from the 'cliff face' is not as rosy as that from the office window afar."

Figure 2.12 Opinions on scheme-management - non-participants (n=353)

Figure 2.12 Opinions on scheme-management - non-participants (n=353)

Further comments on agri-environment schemes

2.44 The levels of agreement to a number of more general statements surrounding the role of conservation management, farmers and scheme participation were assessed. Slightly adapted questions were used for non-scheme participants.

Participants

2.45 There is strong consensus across all participants that conservation management should be an integral part of farming, that it is not detrimental to farming, that schemes have a role in raising awareness of conservation management and that farmers should take more responsibility for the environment. This is clearly indicated in Fig. 2.13, which shows comparative datasets for all three scheme participants.

2.46 The additional comments following this part of the questionnaire provided a final opportunity to comment on the scheme(s). In the main, RSS (n = 62), CPS (n = 71) and OAS (n = 20) participants took the opportunity to re-emphasise a varied range of previously stated points. In particular these addressed concerns with payment levels especially for capital works. Positive aspects were also recognised, by both RSS and CPS participants, for instance:

"It's great to be paid for what we used to do on the estate but lately we couldn't afford to do it until RSS came along…."

Non-participants

2.47 There was also a similar and strong consensus amongst the non-participants that conservation management should be an integral part of farming, that it is not detrimental to this activity and that farmers should take more responsibility for the environment. This is clearly indicated in 2.13. There was also strong indication that generally non-participants considered that joining a scheme would raise their awareness of conservation management. The final comments offered by non-participants (n = 69) again gave an emphasis to previously stated points, with particular concerns with red tape, paperwork and complexity of the schemes (9).

Figure 2.13 General comments on the schemes

Figure 2.13 General comments on the schemes

Figure 2.13 General comments on the schemes