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FLINT Report Summary

Project ID: 613800
Funded under: FP7-KBBE
Country: Netherlands

Periodic Report Summary 2 - FLINT (Farm Level Indicators for New Topics in Policy Evaluation)

Project Context and Objectives:
The common agricultural policy (CAP), since the time of its’ inception, had a strong focus on economic aspects of farming, and a fair standard of living was a key element in the CAP. Since then, the objectives of the CAP have evolved, and also the applied policy instruments have changed: from intervention in markets by price setting towards direct income support, on the condition of good agricultural practice (‘cross compliance’), and rural development measures (‘pillar II’). The most recent CAP reform aims to develop a universal and common agricultural policy, “greening” is a key concept and also places more emphasis on innovation. This broadening of objectives of the CAP reflects and parallels an increased societal concern about the sustainability of agriculture. This concern is also reflected in sustainability initiatives in the agro-food sector. However, the broadening of objectives has not been adequately reflected in the European data infrastructure. The data infrastructure (statistical and administrative systems) does not adequately reflect new policy objectives and hence ex-ante, on-going and ex-post, evaluation of policy proposals is problematic.

Although a wide-range of international policy, economic and sustainability indicator frameworks have been developed that do integrated measurements across the three core pillars of sustainability - economic, environmental and social - these are often applicable at a wider spatial scale than the farm level and thus make farm-level policy evaluation very problematic. Furthermore, these indicator frameworks have focused on the specification of the indicators and hardly touch on the data collection of farm level indicators.

The approach of FLINT implements and tests data collection on different sustainability aspects at farm level at the same farms. The results of the project will facilitate the pursuit of societal goals, in particular environmental, and those related to rural development by improving the targeting, efficacy and efficiency of agricultural policies. Furthermore the integrated assessment of the sustainability of farms allows for the analysis and identification of measures to improve sustainability.


This has resulted in the following objectives for the FLINT project:
• To establish a tested data infrastructure with up to date farm level indicators for the monitoring and evaluation of CAP and to contribute to a better targeting of CAP and other related policy measures.
• FLINT will establish a pilot network of 1000 farms (representative of farm diversity at EU level, including the different administrative environments in the different MS) that is well-suited for the gathering of data on the basis of farm-level indicators to test indicators and methodologies.


To meet these objectives, the FLINT project has been structured around two key contributions and five key questions:
FLINT is built around two key contributions:
• The need to demonstrate the feasibility of collecting policy-relevant data in different administrative environments with newly developed farm-level indicators of economic, environmental, social and innovation issues.
• The need to demonstrate how the new farm level indicators can be used to evaluate policy and improve the targeting of policy initiatives in such a convincing way that the European Commission can establish an operational EU wide system to collect the extended set of farm level indicators.

FLINT is designed around five key questions:
• What is desirable? What farm-level data is needed for the CAP policy evaluation?
• What is feasible in the value chain? Data-collection is costly and depends on the collaboration of farmers. What is the farmers’ level of awareness and what is their willingness to share this information? What information do farmers already share with the food industry?
• What is a feasible pilot network? What and how do we test in a pilot network and how can up to date ICT support such a European infrastructure?
• What is useful? Is the newly collected farm-level data really essential in policy evaluation? To which extent could proxies be used? Is it really necessary to gather all that data in an integrated way at individual farm level?
• What is acceptable? The usefulness of data in policy monitoring does not guarantee that stakeholders and data collectors will collect it. So, what are acceptable scenarios for the future data-infrastructure in an era of tight budgets?

The agro-food sector in all 9 participating member states is actively involved in the definition and selection of relevant indicators. The concepts of productivity and sustainability that farmers and the farming sector use in their management and marketing, will be taken into account. This will improve collaboration as farm management data can be used, feed-back data will be more relevant, and policy analysis gets a better view on decision making in the agro-food sector.
The agro-food sector is also actively involved in this project and they support the FLINT approach (support letters of the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform and the Sustainability Consortium).

Project Results:
The project started with an inventory of new policy areas and a review of the literature and national initiatives to identify indicators (WP1). Based on discussions within the consortium, with DG-Agri, and the advisory board a list of indicators was established to be included in the FLINT project. The indicators have been discussed in all partners countries in a stakeholder analysis to determine the feasibility and relevance of each of the indicators (WP2). This has resulted in a final set of FLINT indicators.
For each of the FLINT indicators a very precise specification has been made which data items to collect in addition to the normal FADN data (WP4). A FLINT farm return has been established, in line with the FADN farm return, with an exact specification and definition of the data elements to be collected in each country, to be provided to the central flint database.
An IT infrastructure for collecting, uploading, testing and disseminating the data was developed (WP3). A dedicated platform with tools for each partner was provided. The platform is a web server with restricted access that allows each partner to upload their farms, to merge FLINT and FADN data, to export the farm data in the appropriate format and to implement coherence tests. Furthermore the platform was used for the calculation of indicators.
Sustainability data was collected on more than 1100 farms in the 9 partner countries (WP4). The experiences of the data collectors on the cooperation of farmers and the feasibility of the data collection were collected and evaluated. The results showed that in general it is perceived to be feasible to collect sustainability data at farm level. The FLINT tests and the regular FADN tests were run at the Rica 1 test engine in Brussels. The testing of the data resulted in corrections of the data.
Case studies were defined based on discussions within the project team and feedback of the advisory board (WP5). Also a meeting with DG-Agri was organised to discuss their priorities. In the end a list of case studies was defined which covered different policy areas and which covered most of the tables in the FLINT data collection. Analyses were conducted on the following topics: Adoption of risk management strategies; cap subsidies and technical efficiency including environmental outputs; adoption of innovation; farm fragmentation, performance and subsidies; social indicators of farm-level sustainability; effect of age of assets on farm profitability; farm economic sustainability; the impact of farmer age on sustainability; the role of extension in agricultural sustainability; investigation of indicators for greening measures; nutrient use efficiency indicators for milk production; tradeoffs between economic, environmental and social sustainability; advisory services and farm level sustainability; indicators for soil organic matter management and finally the source and sustainability of water usage.
Several meetings were organised in the scope of the community of practice, to discuss the ideas, findings and recommendations of the FLINT project (WP6). At OECD meetings and Pacioli workshops the project has been presented and discussed. A meeting was organised in the scope of the EU FADN committee meeting. FADN managers from different countries reflected on the implications of extending the farm level data collection, gave information on their national initiatives and provided feedback on the scenarios developed in the project and provided quantitative and qualitative input for the scenario calculations. The findings were presented in a meeting in Brussels on the 14th of November. The project ended with scenarios and recommendations how to extend the results of the FLINT project to the EU-28.

Potential Impact:
FLINT will provide an updated data infrastructure needed by policy makers and the agro food sector to support the implementation of relevant strategies, policies and legislation in the Europe 2020 strategy. Better targeting of policies will be facilitated by taking into account the performance of farms on a wide range of relevant topics, such as (1) market stabilization; (2) income support; (3) environmental sustainability; (4) climate change adaptation and mitigation; (5) innovation; and (6) resource efficiency.

The measurement of farm level indicators will allow for the monitoring and integrated analysis of EU farmers’ behaviour in a period of changing CAP objectives. FLINT will provide significant contribution to the field of policy assessment relevant to the CAP but also to other EU and national policies (e.g. environmental policies) in order to achieve better targeting of policy measures. Furthermore, it will make recommendations, on the basis of the experiences of the project, to support the establishment of an operational EU-wide system at the European Commission.
FLINT will test the value added of these additional data and indicators by incorporating them in a number of policy case studies. Through that it will greatly improve the targeting efficiency of policy measures from an economic, environmental and societal point of view.
The project will contribute to the increase in public value of the FADN data set. Collecting, managing and processing of farm level data in the FADN requires large financial resources. An increase in the use of the data by aligning it to the new policy objectives provides a stronger justification for these expenditures. The project furthermore provides a better framework for evaluation of expenditures related to the CAP and the impact of these expenditures.
By developing an optimal data collection method in a sample framework, administrative burden for farmers will be kept to a minimum or even be reduced, compared to a situation of more statistical surveys and data collection by industry.

This project will make several scientific contributions to the measurement of sustainability indicators: amendment of existing indicators and the addition of new indicators for the European 2020 framework; broad overview of existing approaches and literature with respect to the measurement of economic, environmental and societal performance of farms; availability of an extended data set that enables new types of scientific and practical research on trade-offs between sustainability aspects.

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