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Survey-based analysis of farmers’ intentions

Predicting the impacts of radical policy change when no historical data are available is naturally a challenging task. One solution is to ask those who will be affected by the reform, the farmers, how they intend to respond. Accordingly, a survey instrument was considered a valuable tool to study the reform. Detailed results from this study are presented in Douarin et al. (2007). The objectives of the survey were not only to establish what farmers intended to do but also to understand their reaction patterns and underlying motives. Do farms react differently depending, for example, on farm structure, region, farm financial performance, human capital, age?

Surveys have both advantages and disadvantages. They provide information without a priori assumptions and provide insights into farmers’ business confidence (Thomson and Tansey, 1982). However, opinions about whether surveys are good predictors of actual farmer behaviour are mixed. Some authors provide evidence that, in the short run, farmers actually implement their intentions (Harvey, 2000; Tranter et al., 2004), whereas others show that a survey response constitutes a weak predictor of actual behaviour (Vare et al., 2005). Furthermore, answers may be biased by respondents’ expectations about policy evolution and by respondents’ attempts to influence the outcome of the analysis (Thomson and Tansey, 1982).

A unique dataset was collected regarding farmers’ planned activities in the post-2003 era in five member states [France, Lithuania, Slovakia, Sweden and England (United Kingdom)]. The choice of countries incorporates a mix of old (EU15) and new member states (NMS). To understand the specific effects of the switch in policy, farmers were asked to state their intentions under two main policy frameworks. This would in particular allow the comparison of farmers’ intentions holding everything else but the policy framework constant. The two policy frameworks considered were as follows.

  • • Continuation of policies under Agenda 2000 in the EU15 and continuation of preaccession policies in the NMS; this provided a benchmark as to what farmers would have done if the previous policy framework with coupled support had been continued.
  • • Intentions under the 2003 CAP reform as it was to be implemented in each member state.

Data was collected through face-to-face interviews, except in Sweden where a postal survey was conducted. To avoid collecting large amounts of data on economic performance and structural characteristics of farms, IDEMA survey data was matched to records of the Farm Accountancy Data Network3 (FADN). The rationale was to use the wealth of information included in the FADN system to be able to analyse farmers’ responses in conjunction with historic records of farm performance and structure. It was however necessary to collect additional, particularly demographic, information, which is usually missing in FADN databases. Primary data were collected on intentions to exit from or stay in agriculture, as well as intentions to change the area of land farmed or the production mix. Data were also collected in relation to farmers’ objectives, values and attitudes concerning policy support.

The questionnaire was pre-tested and discussed with focus groups. Data collection took place February to November 2005 in all five countries. Table 1.1 provides general information about the survey and the matching FADN.

Table 1.1. Data available from the IDEMA survey and from FADN


Type of survey

Sample size

Matching FADN


Face to face




Face to face


2002, 2003 or 2004 (one year only)






Face to face




Face to face



Source: Douarin et al. (2007).

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