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Study on Input/Output Accounting Systems on EU agricultural holdings

Goodlass, G.; Halberg, N.; Verschuur, G.W. and Hanegraff, M.C. (editor): Goodlass, G.; Halberg, N; Verschuur, G.W. and Hanegraff, M.C. (Eds.) (2001) Study on Input/Output Accounting Systems on EU agricultural holdings. CLM .

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Of 241 questionnaires sent out to 20 countries 55 completed forms were returned. No
information could be obtained about systems in Portugal or the USA. The subject of
nutrients was covered by 91% of systems, pesticides 38%, energy 29% and other subjects
including wastes 44%. Nearly half of the systems covered more than one subject, the most common single subject system was nutrients. The arable sector was covered most often by the systems (76%), with dairy (62%) and pig (56%) the most prominent of the livestock sectors. The respondents judged that 65% of systems were at least moderately effective in improving the ratio of inputs to outputs. The highest levels of ratio reduction tended to occur with systems which included the livestock sectors or protected horticultural crops. Over half (56%) of farmers had a good opinion of the system, indifferent or bad opinions were more likely to be due to effect on income than the type of system or who managed it. High uptake was more likely in compensated systems. Farm incomes in the arable and dairy sectors were most likely to be improved by systems, negative effects were most likely in the horticultural sector. Government was the main driving force in 38% of the systems, but government was not necessarily the driving force behind the 15% compulsory systems and only one of these was compensated.
Increasing concern about environmental issues was the driving force behind development of each of the systems studied. In most cases a major part of the funding to develop the system or run pilot projects came from government. Benefits in terms of increased awareness of problem areas were identified by several systems originators. Anecdotal evidence suggests that farmers are encouraged to make actual changes to their management on the basis of the systems, if they receive detailed help from an adviser associated with the system, or if the system results in a marketing advantage. It seems likely that input output accounting systems could be used to increase awareness and provide evidence of the impact of management changes, they may need to be linked to supporting systems of technical advice.
More than 40 IOA systems representing very different approaches have been developed
and applied on farms in European countries with the aim of improving environmental
performance. Major differences regard especially two characteristics: The no topics covered (single or multiple) and the way indicators are presented. In many systems the indicators used are presented as calculations of input related to output and are derived from accounts based data. Other systems present indicators that are transformed to a standard scale and often these indicators are based on a combination of practise and account data compared with norms for Good Agricultural Practices. Moreover, the systems differ in their origin and driving force: Only a few systems have been developed for mandatory use or for labelling and formal auditioning. Most systems have been developed for the use by advisory services on a voluntary basis. A number of very different systems seem to have been successful. Effectiveness is defined here as the combination of a system with high (potential) impact on the participating farmers in combination with high uptake in terms of the no of farmers willing to use the system. Generally documentation of effects and uptake is poor and more investigations into this are needed.
It seems that many systems have not passed the pilot phase, even though some of them
did get a positive evaluation by the farmers. In several examples the effort of researchers to develop a scientifically valid concept was not matched by efforts to secure the uptake by advisors or other institutions afterwards. The right institutional setting and political context seems to be more important than the character of the indicators used for the question of farmer uptake. But that does not mean that the choice of indicators is not important from another point of view. In none of the reviewed systems were the use of confidence intervals or variation coefficients an established part of the procedure. Only few reports exist that analyse the variation between farms or between years on specific farms in order to decide to which degree differences are due to systematically different management practices.

EPrint Type:Report
Keywords:Input/Output Accounting Systems; EU agricultural holdings
Subjects: Environmental aspects
Knowledge management > Education, extension and communication
Farming Systems > Farm nutrient management
Research affiliation: Denmark > AU - Aarhus University > AU, DJF - Faculty of Agricultural Sciences
European Union
Deposited By: Kirkegaard, Lene/LKI
ID Code:13117
Deposited On:21 Apr 2008
Last Modified:12 Apr 2010 07:36
Document Language:English
Refereed:Peer-reviewed and accepted

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