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Review of the environmental and socio-economic barriers and benefits to organic agriculture in Scotland

Report of the research carried out by Harper Adams University, on behalf of the Scottish Government, into the environmental and socio-economic barriers and benefits to organic agriculture in Scotland.


4. Stakeholder consultation - Table of Priorities

To help identify areas for future prioritisation for the organic sector in Scotland, benefits and barriers, identified in the SWOT analysis, were prioritised in order of importance by members of the Scottish Organic Forum together with some of their members and contacts.

4.1 Methods for gathering stakeholder opinion on priority areas for action

Key benefits and barriers to Scottish farming, as identified in the SWOT analysis, were summarised into two lists. The two lists highlighted key environmental and socio-economic benefits and barriers to organic farming in Scotland. Each list was circulated to members of the Scottish Organic Forum. Members were invited to rate the benefits and barriers for organic farming on importance (High, Medium or Low), difficulty of addressing (Hard, Moderate or Easy) and identify which major groups could be best targeted to address them (Farmer, Consumer or Other). A mean from the ratings of importance from the 19 respondents was calculated to assess the groups’ collective opinion. The items on each list were ranked in order of importance according to the respondents (Tables 5 and 6), and the order of importance was correlated cross-tabulated against the ease of actions to address the barrier or highlight the benefit (Figures 4 and 5).

4.2. Results of the stakeholder consultation

4.2.1. Benefits

Table 5 shows the potential benefits of organic farming in Scotland in order of importance according to the stakeholder group. The group thought that the benefit rated most important to organic farming in Scotland by respondents was (A) Increased demand for organic produce (Table 5). Figure 4 compares the most importance of each benefit with the ease of addressing. Generally the benefits considered most important were also thought to be the ones which could most easily be targeted in with future action.  The benefit rated most difficult to address in any future prioritisation was (S) Improved diversity of varieties and livestock genetics to benefit organic producers.

The benefits highlighted as potential targets for future policy due to their high importance in relation to perceived ease of addressing were: (A) Increased demand for organic produce, (B) Organic farming supports greater biodiversity than conventional farming, (D) Organic farming generally supports improvement of soil health characteristics, and (E) Organic subsidies add value to the land by supporting greater biodiversity and ecosystem service provision.

Respondents most commonly highlighted farmers as the major target group for addressing the benefits stated within the table of priorities (Table 5).

Table 5: List of environmental and socio-economic benefits to organic farming in Scotland in order of mean importance – A (most important) - T (least important) – and the main group(s) to target to address each one, according to respondents.

Benefit Target group 
A Increased demand for organic produce Consumer
B Organic farming supports greater biodiversity than conventional farming Farmer
C Organic consumers are motivated to purchase by taste and health, environmental, animal welfare and social concerns Consumer
D Organic farming generally supports improvement of soil health characteristics Farmer
E Organic subsidies add value to the land by supporting greater biodiversity and ecosystem service provision Farmer/ Other
F Management of soil organic carbon to offset climate change potential on organic farms Farmer
G Potential for realisation of more committed organic consumers through the existing large occasional organic consumer base Consumer
H Potential for increased competitive ability of organic farms with introduction of carbon and/or pesticide taxes Farmer/ Other
I Organic farmers more often perceive their land as part of the natural environment Farmer
J Greater non-marketable ecosystem services provided by organic farming than conventional farming Farmer
K Consumers willing to pay a premium for organically labelled produce Consumer
L Rise in number of Scottish certified organic processors Farmer
M Improved organic infrastructure could increase conversion appeal Farmer
N Opportunities for higher margins comparative to conventional farming Farmer
O Organic farms require greater labour which could generate more local jobs Farmer
P Greater access to training and advice on organic management could increase uptake Other
Q Improved financial stability with increasing size of organic farm  Farmer
R Improved efficiency of organic subsidies by designating proportionally greater subsidies in regions with low habitat and landscape complexity. This recognises the improved environmental benefit of organic management in such regions Other
S Improved diversity of varieties and livestock genetics would benefit organic producers Farmer/ Other
T Young organic farmers are more likely to diversify on-farm activities Farmer

Figure 4: The correlation between mean importance of environmental and socio-economic benefits to organic farming in Scotland and the difficulty of addressing them (see Table 6 for key). Letters within the red circle represent priorities that could be considered targets for future policy due to their high importance and perceived ease of implementation.
N.B. Metric calculation: For importance, a rating of High (H) scored 10, Medium (M) 5 and Low (L) 0. For difficulty, a rating of Hard (H) scored 10, Moderate (M) 5 and Easy (E) 0. The scores were totalled for each benefit/barrier and divided by the total number of responses, resulting in a mean score between 0 (lowest importance/easiest to address) and 10 (highest importance/hardest to address).

Figure 4: The correlation between mean importance of environmental and socio-economic benefits to organic farming in Scotland and the difficulty of addressing them

4.2.2. Barriers

The barrier rated by respondents as the most important to organic farming in Scotland was (A) Poor awareness of the complete benefits of organic farming (Table 6). The barriers rated equally as the most difficult to address were: (C) Reduced certified organic livestock and crop and (G) Reduced organic and in-conversion Scottish land area and producers (Figure 5)

The barriers highlighted as potential targets for future policy, due to both high importance and perceived ease of addressing were: (A) Poor awareness of the complete benefits of organic farming, (B) Direct payments important to financial viability of organic farms, (E) Inconsistent availability of organic produce in markets and supermarkets, and (F) Consumer knowledge of organic certification is low and is often not distinguished from alternative environmental certification i.e. LEAF

Respondents most commonly highlighted farmers as the major target group for addressing the proposed barriers (Table 6). However, consumers were thought by the stakeholder group to be the priority target for addressing their most important barrier to organic farming (poor awareness of the complete benefits of organic farming).

Table 6: List of environmental and socio-economic barriers to organic farming in Scotland in order of mean importance – A (most important) - T (least important) – and the main group(s) to target to address each one, according to respondents. 

Barrier Target group 
A Poor awareness of the complete benefits of organic farming Consumer
B Direct payments important to financial viability of organic farms Farmer/ Consumer
C Reduced certified organic livestock and crop producers (since 2011) Farmer
D Organic premium doesn't consistently compensate farmers Farmer
E Inconsistent availability of organic produce in markets and supermarkets Consumer
F Consumer knowledge of organic certification is low and is often not distinguished from alternative environmental certification i.e. LEAF  Consumer
G Reduced organic and in-conversion Scottish land area (since 2011) Farmer
H Excessive organic pricing limits purchases Consumer
I Low availability of labour and affordable rural housing to accommodate workers Farmer
J AES measures do not account for variable environmental performance of organic management in landscapes of different complexity Other
K Limited financial stability for smaller organic farms Farmer
L Some farms keen to gain organic certification are restricted by a lack of technical understanding of organic management  Farmer
M Financial and administrative barriers to organic certification - particularly on small farms Farmer/ Other
N Trust in production standards and inspection schemes related to the mandatory EU organic certification label is low Consumer/ Other
O Yield gap between non-organic and organic production Farmer
P Expectations gap between what consumers expect of organic production and the reality of organic certification Consumer
Q Evidence of long-term soil phosphorus depletion on organic farms compared to non-organic Farmer
R Organic farms experience increased financial risk and uncertainty Farmer
S Inconsistent supply and lack of availability of reliable and cost-effective organic inputs for pests, weed and diseases control Farmer
T Land tenure limits organic production Farmer

Figure 5: The correlation between mean importance of environmental and socio-economic barriers to organic farming in Scotland and the difficulty of addressing them (see Table 7 for key). Letters within the red circle represent priorities that could be considered targets for future policy due to their high importance and perceived ease of implementation. N.B. Metric calculation: For importance, a rating of High (H) scored 10, Medium (M) 5 and Low (L) 0. For difficulty, a rating of Hard (H) scored 10, Moderate (M) 5 and Easy (E) 0. The scores were totalled for each benefit/barrier and divided by the total number of responses, resulting in a mean score between 0 (lowest importance/easiest to address) and 10 (highest importance/hardest to address).

Figure 5: The correlation between mean importance of environmental and socio-economic barriers to organic farming in Scotland and the difficulty of addressing them

Contact

Email: pamela.blyth@gov.scot

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