Agriculture and food systems are the central driving forces of environmental degradation, biodiversity loss and climate change. In order to facilitate the transition towards more sustainable forms of food production, understanding and measuring on farm sustainability is crucial to evaluating the status quo and progress of applying on farm environmental measures and eco-practices.
The sustainability of agriculture is usually measured within the framework of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which include economic, environmental and social dimensions of sustainability. However, up to date in Europe, farm data has been mainly collected to assess farms’ economic performance. The European Farm Accountancy Data Network (FADN) of the European Union has been in use as unique source of microeconomic and accountancy data and has allowed to assess the farms’ economic and financial performance since 1965. The Commission has provided a harmonized methodology and a common questionnaire, whereas the Member States have been responsible for collecting, verifying and submitting the data.
The European Green deal, including the “Farm to Fork” and the biodiversity strategy, targets to make agriculture and food systems healthy, fair and environmental friendly. Especially, the “Farm to Fork” strategy stets clear ambitions to increase sustainability of food production in Europe, including the extension of organic farming, and a considerable reduction in the use of pesticides, fertilizers and antibiotics. This shift requires stronger emphasis on the interaction between environmental and agricultural policies and new data is needed for monitoring and policy evaluation. According to the future demands of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), agricultural statistics will need to cover a) the economic dimension including production levels, market data, and farmers income; b) the environmental dimension due to the reliance on natural resources and the provision of ecosystem services; and c) the social dimension covering living conditions, quality of life and vulnerability of farmers and rural households.
To meet the demands of a new policy orientation, an assessment of the overall sustainability of farms is required, including environmental data on soil, air, water, and biodiversity as well as data on animal welfare, innovation and the social dimension of agriculture. European Commission recognized this urgent demand and announced recently to convert the European Farm Accountancy Data Network (FADN), to the Farm Sustainability Data Network (FSDN). In addition to economic data, FSDN collects environmental and social farm data. Therefore, data collection needs a broader set of indicators to accurately assess sustainability performance at farm level.
The European Commission adopted the proposal to extend the FADN to FSDN on 22 of June 2022. This proposal aims to adapt the current sample survey, which is focused on the economic data by collecting additional data to measure environmental and social performance of European farms. A major concern relates to the potential additional costs and administrative burden for Member States and farmers for collecting additional data. Nevertheless, given the urgent need for accurate sustainability data for the farm sector itself, the food industry and retail sector to improve overall sustainability, justifies additional efforts for data collection.
FSDN data provides appropriate information on farm structures in the European Union and therefore was used to define to conceptual framework for developing an Eco-Assessment and Decision (EAD) tool within the CAPTIVATE project - an Erasmus + initiative including partners from Hungary, Slovakia, Croatia and Austria. The EAD-tool is designed to collect selected farm level sustainability information and to correlate this information with available CAP measure. Furthermore, FSDN data helps to square farm level sustainability data with national and European information and thereby, main beneficiaries of the CAPTIVATE project (farmers, advisors) obtain the possibility for benchmarking based on a comprehensive examination of sustainability.
Authors: Friedrich Leitgeb, Richard Petrasek
European Commission, Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Council Regulation (EC) No 1217/2009 as regards conversion of the Farm Accountancy Data Network into a Farm Sustainability Data Network, COM(2022)0296
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Vrolijk, H.; Poppe, K. Cost of Extending the Farm Accountancy Data Network to the Farm Sustainability Data Network: Empirical Evidence. Sustainability 2021, 13, 8181. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13158181