Administrative Data | Agricultural Research Collection: Enhancing productivity and the wellbeing of farmers

Farming in the UK underpins the nation’s food security, generates economic benefits and shapes a rich and varied landscape. Likewise, farm families, residing in the same location often over many generations, are important local actors, strengthening the social fabric of rural areas.

Despite these contributions to local and national life, farming as a sector experiences uncertain and volatile profits with consequences for household income and financial stability. In recognition of these and other features of farming life, agriculture has received subsidies aimed at supporting and stabilising farm incomes, encouraging environmental actions and diversifying farm business activities.

For almost 40 years, policy was largely delivered through the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), but following Brexit, authority will return to the UK. As agriculture is a devolved matter, this means new and increased responsibilities for all four UK nations. New policy directions are already being established with aims linked to improving business productivity, enhancing environmental sustainability and strengthening business and personal resilience.

The project

The AD|ARC (Administrative Data | Agricultural Research Collection) project aims to integrate the human dimension with data on farming activities, to better understand the demographic, health, education and economic characteristics of farm households associated with different types and sizes of farm businesses. This will provide the insight needed for decision makers to improve future policies and enhance the wellbeing of farmers and their families.

AD|ARC brings together esteemed data linkage researchers and experts in agricultural affairs with partner organisations including the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), Scottish Government, Welsh Government and Public Health Wales (PHW). The programme will bring together the teams within the individual nations of the ADR UK investment, led by Dr Paul Caskie of the Agri-Food and Bioscience Institute, Northern Ireland and principally supported by a team at ADR Wales.

The exact project plan will be determined by close engagement with farming stakeholders and scientific researchers across the UK.  Research will investigate relationships between farm family characteristics and recent farming and land use activities with a view to improving the design of future policies and enhancing the wellbeing of farmers and farm families. The project will do this in separate but coordinated work streams for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, aiming to be complementary so that analysis at a UK level is possible.

The data

The ambition is to link data on agricultural and land use activities, at the level of individual farms, with data on age, occupation, educational attainment and health of the relevant farmer (or farmers) and members of the farmer’s household.

We plan for the core sources for the project to be:

These sources provide a resource with a high level of consistency across the UK.

Further supplementary data sources will be investigated for access to information on farm subsidy payment, farm turnover, farm family health and educational attainment. The sources and type of supplementary data secured may well vary for each of the four UK nations, depending on the policy interest.

All records used in the AD|ARC programme will be de-identified, held in a secure environment and only made available to accredited researchers undertaking approved projects, subject to strict governance. All outputs will be subject to third party review as a further assurance against any form of disclosure.

What is the potential of this newly linked data?

AD|ARC research will focus on describing the composition and characteristics of farm households and undertaking analyses investigating farm family health and wellbeing, prosperity and resilience, and farmer engagement with agri-environmental issues.

Analysis will address issues of interest to policymakers and other stakeholders across the UK.  Outputs will inform future policy decision making, potentially leading to better responses to challenges such as improving productivity, responding to environmental pressures, generating better health outcomes and improving farm household income.

In addition, the AD|ARC data resource will be available after the project ends, creating the potential to expand in a number of directions and enabling the generation of new evidence to support farming, farmers and farming households for years to come.

Project details

  • Principal Investigator:  Dr Paul Caskie, Agri-Food and Bioscience Institute, Northern Ireland
  • Funding amount: £597,366
  • Duration: June 2020 – April 2022

The project is led by ADR Wales with a core administrative team supported by the Principal Investigator and Co-Investigator. Project governance is the responsibility of the AD|ARC Steering Group.

The AD|ARC project will benefit from the following governance structures:

  • AD|ARC Steering Committee – comprising the project management team, data controllers and policy leads from government – with responsibility for strategic direction and achievement of project objectives.
  • AD|ARC Scientific Advisory Board – comprising leading researchers in a range of science disciplines from around the UK – with responsibility for refining the research objectives and when appropriate participating in analysis.
  • AD|ARC Stakeholder Reference Group – comprising representative from the farming communities across the UK and third sector organisations engaging with farmers and farm families – with responsibility for informing research proposals and commenting on emerging findings.

The project team can be contacted at adarc@adruk.org .

This project is funded via the ADR UK Strategic Hub Fund, a dedicated fund for commissioning research using newly linked administrative data, in consultation with the Research Commissioning Board (RCB).

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