An Agricultural Census is a statistical operation for collecting, processing and disseminating data on all farms and farmers in a country.
Every 10 years, as advised by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The 2020 round will be conducted under the World Programme for the Agricultural Census. The decennial Agricultural Census is complemented by sample data collections organised every 3-4 years in-between.
Within the European Union (EU), each of the Member States will be tasked with collecting set data for the farmers and the farms above certain physical thresholds in their country. This will mean collecting data on as many as 10.5 million farms (2016 data) in the EU.
Member States will establish teams of supervisors and enumerators to conduct the Agricultural Census, typically overseen by a combination of civil servants from the Statistical Office and the Ministry of Agriculture. They will use all types of collection methods to complete the Agricultural Census, inter alia farm registers, administrative sources and surveys. For the surveys, enumerators will contact farmers over the internet, by telephone, by letter or through face-to-face questioning. By allowing a more extensive use of administrative sources in 2020, the overall cost of the census will be reduced. At the same time, the burden on farmers will be alleviated, as they will receive questionnaires that are already partially pre-filled.
In the EU’s Agricultural Census 2020 approximately 300 variables will be collected, covering the following aspects on farming:
- General characteristics of the farm and the farmer
- Labour force
- Animal housing and manure management
- Rural development support measures
Within each of these broad aspects a considerable amount of data will be collected. For example, there will be information on the size of farms, the number of people working on farms, their age and gender, the level of training attained by farm managers, places available in animal housing and information on manure management.
The EU’s Agricultural Census 2020 has a new structure, consisting of a core data set and several modules. The core data set will be collected from all farms (through the Census), with the modules drawing data from a representative sample of farms.
The census data will refer to the year 2020 (with the exception of Portugal, where the data will refer to 2019).
The indicative dates for the collection of data in each Member State are given in the table below.
Eurostat is responsible for issuing the legislation establishing the framework for the EU’s Agricultural Census.
Eurostat will begin receiving data on the millions of European farms from each of the Member States in 2021, with the bulk of the data arriving in the first quarter of 2022. Its role is to ensure the quality of the data (in terms of accuracy, relevance, timeliness and punctuality, accessibility, comparability and coherence); to anonymise the individual data; to aggregate data to provide EU totals or averages; to disseminate the data in its database and analyse the results (see here for an example of the analysis in our Statistical Book on Agriculture, forestry and fishery statistics, 2018).
The Commission co-finances the Agricultural Census through the attribution of grants.
Eurostat will start publishing results in the second half of 2022.
The results of the Agricultural Census will be used by the public, researchers, farmers and policy-makers to better understand the state of the farming sector and the impact of agriculture on the environment.
- It will provide indicators for the monitoring and evaluation of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). In 2018 the CAP supported farmers with €58.82 billion, which represented almost 40% of the overall EU budget (source: https://ec.europa.eu/info/food-farming-fisheries/key-policies/common-agricultural-policy/cap-glance_en).
- The data will help identify and answer a wide range of structural issues that could help frame policies, such as: Who will farm in the future, with so few farmers under the age of 40 years old? How many women are farming? Are family farms disappearing? Is agriculture becoming dominated by big business? Is there growth in organic farming?
- The data will help track a number of agri-environmental indicators that look at the impact of agriculture on the environment. This will then inform debate on a range of policies, including agricultural policy, environmental policies, the so-called green deal and rural policy. How is agriculture contributing both in a positive and negative way to the environment (soil, air, water, wildlife and climate)? How are production methods changing? Is agriculture moving to a polarised system of both more intensive farming and more extensive farming systems?
- The Agricultural Census forms the backbone of the agricultural statistical system, which also encompasses data on agricultural production, agricultural prices, economic accounts for agriculture and agri-environmental statistics. These statistics are collected annually, some of them even monthly.