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Assessing the environmental performance of English arable and livestock holdings using data from the Farm Accountancy Data Network (FADN)

By D. B. Westbury, J. Park, A. L. Mauchline, R. T. Crane and S. R. Mortimer

Abstract

Agri-environment schemes (AESs) have been implemented across EU member states in an attempt to reconcile agricultural production methods with protection of the environment and maintenance of the countryside. To determine the extent to which such policy objectives are being fulfilled, participating countries are obliged to monitor and evaluate the environmental, agricultural and socio-economic impacts of their AESs. However, few evaluations measure precise environmental outcomes and critically, there are no agreed methodologies to evaluate the benefits of particular agri-environmental measures, or to track the environmental consequences of changing agricultural practices. In response to these issues, the Agri-Environmental Footprint project developed a common methodology for assessing the environmental impact of European AES. The Agri-Environmental Footprint Index (AFI) is a farm-level, adaptable methodology that aggregates measurements of agri-environmental indicators based on Multi-Criteria Analysis (MCA) techniques. The method was developed specifically to allow assessment of differences in the environmental performance of farms according to participation in agri-environment schemes. The AFI methodology is constructed so that high values represent good environmental performance. This paper explores the use of the AFI methodology in combination with Farm Business Survey data collected in England for the Farm Accountancy Data Network (FADN), to test whether its use could be extended for the routine surveillance of environmental performance of farming systems using established data sources. Overall, the aim was to measure the environmental impact of three different types of agriculture (arable, lowland livestock and upland livestock) in England and to identify differences in AFI due to participation in agri-environment schemes. However, because farm size, farmer age, level of education and region are also likely to influence the environmental performance of a holding, these factors were also considered. Application of the methodology revealed that only arable holdings participating in agri-environment schemes had a greater environmental performance, although responses differed between regions. Of the other explanatory variables explored, the key factors determining the environmental performance for lowland livestock holdings were farm size, farmer age and level of education. In contrast, the AFI value of upland livestock holdings differed only between regions. The paper demonstrates that the AFI methodology can be used readily with English FADN data and therefore has the potential to be applied more widely to similar data sources routinely collected across the EU-27 in a standardised manner

Publisher: Elsevier
Year: 2011
OAI identifier: oai:centaur.reading.ac.uk:16985
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