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Farm Management

Farm Management

Farmers are required to manage land to produce profitable arable and livestock crops. This is at the same time as providing environmental benefits, such as biodiversity, clear water, carbon sinks and attractive landscapes.

The Agriculture Bill (2018) – which sets out the UK’s domestic agricultural policy as it moves away for the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy - includes new incentives and instruments that will affect these trade-offs.

But production systems evolve under the influence of many changes, such as the withdrawal of pesticide active ingredients and the development of resistance in weed species.

Exploring and analysing the impacts of change

The research group has the depth and breadth to explore and analyse the impacts of such changes on the evolution of farming systems, and how food and the environment is produced.

For example, it can analyse:

  • the economic consequences of the withdrawal of pesticides
  • the profitability of using innovative technologies
  • why some farmers are willing to work together to reduce costs and deliver cross farm environmental benefits while others are not
  • how to develop instruments that are effective at reducing greenhouse gas production from farming and food, and which incentivise sequestrate atmospheric carbon
  • innovative mechanisms to direct funding to deliver additional environmental benefits, such as green bonds

Moving away from direct payments

Title: Moving away from direct payments: a critical analysis

  • Project type: Review of publication
  • Funder: Newcastle University

Summary: The Agriculture Bill (2018) was published in September 2018 (House of Commons, 2018). At the same time, Defra published an evidence report Moving away from Direct Payment: Agriculture Bill: Analysis of the impacts of removing Direct Payments (Defra 2018).

This research project discusses how information is presented in the publication. In particular, it focuses on how clearly a key measure of farm income, Farm Business Income (FBI) is defined and used.

FBI measures the returns to 'farmer, spouse and unpaid labour' for their labour and managerial input into the business. But it is not clearly defined.

So it is difficult for the reader to fully understand and appreciate the possible impacts of the withdrawal of direct payments on the likely changes to the size and number of farm businesses.

Environmental managements schemes

Title: An assessment of the landscape-scale dimension of land-based environmental management schemes offered to farmers in England.

  • Project type: Research
  • Funder: University of Newcastle

Summary: This study reviews the evolution of environmental land management and agri-environment schemes (AES) offered to farmers in England between 1979 and 2015. This is from the perspective of their potential to deliver landscape-scale, i.e. cross farm boundary, environmental benefits.

The review uses population conservation theory, which underpinned the recommendations in the Lawton report (Lawton et al., 2010), to identify eight characteristics of these schemes with this potential. These characteristics form a framework which is used to assess the potential landscape-scale impacts of Countryside Stewardship, the AES recently introduced in England.

The Mid Tier of Countryside Stewardship provides financial assistance to facilitators to help farmers organise and manage Farmer Groups. A Farmer Group must consist of four or more neighbouring farmers, who between them farm over 2,000 hectares.

Each member of a Farmer Group is required to submit an individual application. But each application must demonstrate that it 'go[es] beyond [the environmental benefits that] could be delivered by individual holdings acting in isolation'. After the 2017 round, 98 Farmer Groups had been funded, involving 1,915 farmer members, covering 451,064 hectares.

Primarily because of this innovation, Countryside Stewardship is considered to be the most landscape-scale orientated AES offered to farmers in England.

A consideration of the evolution towards landscape-scale attributes in environmental land management schemes leads into a discussion of how future changes to four key AES characteristics, identified in the review, may influence how the landscape-scale dimension develops in the next generation of AES.

Farmer Collectives Project

Title: Farmer Collectives Project

  • Project type: Research
  • Funder: Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs (applied research for policymakers)
  • Newcastle partners: Roel Jongenel, Wageningen University
  • Collaborators: Judith Westerink & Nico Polman (Wageningen University), Katrin Prager (James Hutton, Aberdeen), Pierre Dupraz (INRA, French National Institute for Agricultural Research, Paris), Evy Mettepenningen (Ghent University, Belgium)

Summary: This research project was designed to describe, analyse and compare different policy approaches to agri-environmental service provision in the North-West Europe.

The research will contribute to a better understanding of requirements for coordination and collaboration in agri-environment schemes (AES).

It will compare selected examples of such schemes in Western Europe.

The research developed insight into different approaches to develop effective policy delivery mechanisms, emphasising the dependence of specific contextual issues.

It suggested ways for improvements needed to cope with current and future challenges.

Benchmarking farm businesses

Title: Benchmarking farm businesses using 'key constraint' as the comparator category

  • Funder: University of Newcastle Research Centre Funding (2016/17)

Summary: This study examines the key constraints faced by upland farmers in England and the effects these constraints have on their business management and performance.

It is based on a face-to-face farmer survey undertaken by Farm Business Survey (FBS) staff. The FBS routinely collect data from farms between January and September each year.

The constraints related data will be gathered by adding a questionnaire to the main survey: these so-called “add on” surveys are regularly carried out by FBS staff.

This will allow the additional constraint related questions to be analysed alongside the full information gathered in the FBS.

Climate change risk in Java

Title: Understanding sugarcane farmer’s perceptions of and adaptation to climate change risk in Java, Indonesia

  • Project type: PhD study
  • Funder: Government of Indonesia
  • Collaborators: Achmad Saiful Alim (PhD student), John Gowing

Summary: This study examines the impact of climate change on the farming of sugarcane in Java, Indonesia.

It will use limited dependent variable modelling to identify the characteristics of farmers who perceive that the climate has changed and to like this perception to adaptation changes they have made on their farm.

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