Scotland's Farm Advisory Service (FAS) is part of the Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP) which is co-funded by the EU and Scottish Government. The FAS launched in September 2016 and is effective through to 31 December 2020. Through the service, farms and crofters across Scotland are provided with information and resources aimed at increasing the profitability and sustainability of these businesses.
The FAS is currently delivered by SAC Consulting (part of Scotland's Rural College) and Ricardo Energy and Environment under contract arrangements. There are two components of the service:
- National one-to-many FAS function – delivered by SAC Consulting
- National one-to-one FAS function – delivered by Ricardo.
The one-to-many FAS function includes a website, advice line and a range of articles and publications.
There are four components of the one-to-one FAS function:
- Integrated Land Management Plan (ILMP) – whereby an advisor undertakes a confidential assessment of the business and helps develop plans for the future
- Specialist Advice – as part of the ILMP an advisor can help a business to develop a specialist advice plan on a range of topics
- Carbon Audits – whereby an experienced agricultural consultant will help the business to establish their carbon footprint, identify the sources of emissions and (through comparison to others) help identify areas for improved operational efficiency
- Mentoring for New Entrants – providing up to four days advice and support from a personal mentor.
1.2. Requirement for enhanced monitoring and evaluation
As part of programme delivery, both FAS contractors collect KPI data. These are mostly focused on input and output measures (e.g. number of attendees/participants; number of technical notes, articles etc).
However, there is a current gap with regards to understanding the outcomes of the FAS (e.g. what knowledge has been imparted and what changes have actually been made as a result) and therefore in understanding the potential impact of the support such as business and resource efficiency or meeting environmental objectives.
The Scottish Government has therefore commissioned Winning Moves to conduct a piece of research to explore the quality, focus and effectiveness of the FAS through:
- Identifying the outcomes of the support for beneficiary businesses
- Understanding the extent to which provision of advice has influenced outcomes
- Identifying gaps in the current provision of advice.
This work is intended to help to support the second enhanced annual report of the 2014-2020 programme by providing:
- An understanding of whether the current FAS offering delivers against initial aspirations identified at the contract design stage
- Ideas Scottish Government can consider for the scope, form and delivery mechanisms of advice that should be delivered in future.
The work has focused on the one to one FAS function delivered by Ricardo since this was felt to be likely to deliver the most significant changes in farmers' behaviour.